A stock bull can be half your herd, so always take care of your investment over winter to ensure that animals are fit and healthy come spring. Outlined are five things to consider about managing the stock bull over the winter period.
Keep cull cows and heifers well away
If stocks bulls are housed along with spring-calving cows, keep the herd sire well away from maiden heifers and cull cows that are being fattened.
These animals will come into heat, attracting the bull’s attention. There are plenty of instances of stock bulls getting injured as they try to jump dividing gates to gain access to cull cows in heat. Don’t let it happen to your prized sire.
Always keep safety in mind
If bulls are housed in individual pens, they can be more aggressive as a result of separation from the cows or other cattle.
Keep this in mind when applying fresh bedding in pens or handling the animal for routine health treatments.
You should always have two escape points from any bull pen in case one exit is blocked.
Even if bulls are housed on slats along with cows, always keep an eye on these animals any time it is necessary to enter a group pen.
Make sure there are heavy duty feed and dividing gates in place to properly restrain the bull within the pen.
Bulls should have access to some form of hard standing, be it a solid concrete or slatted floor when housed.
A floor with 100% straw or woodchip bedding can lead to feet problems. Solid floors need scraping regularly, as a buildup of dung and urine will also lead to feet problems.
If the stock bull is serving autumn cows indoors, sheds with solid or bedded floors generally provide greater traction for mounting. Slatted floors with rubber fitted also work well.
A bull’s head is much wider than that of a cow, so make sure feed barriers are suitable for the herd sire.
Check that the bull’s head fits through barriers without rubbing or catching at any point, especially when the animal tries to exit the feed gate. Ideally, the bull should be penned in a shed with a single horizontal feed barrier.
Diet and body condition
The breeding season for spring herds is a long way off. But the way the bull is fed over winter will impact on the animal’s fertility.
For bulls housed on slats, keep them in a lean, fit condition over the winter. Excess weight will put legs and feet under strain, especially as mobility is likely to be restricted in group pens.
Offer bulls a maintenance silage diet of moderate- to good-quality silage (68 to 70 DMD). Concentrates can be introduced closer to the start of breeding time.
If the bull is serving autumn cows, then offer high-quality silage and 2kg/day of concentrate to maintain body condition.