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Breeding Soundness Exams Are Cheap Insurance

23 February 2010

US - The cheapest insurance a beef producer can buy for a herd is a bull breeding soundness exam at least 30 days before breeding season, said Allen Bridges, a Purdue University breeding specialist.

"The real reason to do a breeding soundness exam is to identify the bulls that have inferior fertility and aren't capable of settling the cows in the herd," he said. "One misnomer about the exams is that they are only used to identify infertile bulls. In reality, there is only a small portion of bulls that are completely infertile. Rather, we're trying to identify the bulls that have sub-par fertility so we can pull them from the herd.

"These would be the bulls that wouldn't be able to settle all the cows and would result in numerous open or non-pregnant cows at the end of the breeding season."

In a state like Indiana where most beef herds are cow-calf operations, having open cows at the end of the season means no calves to sell, which can be devastating to a producer's bottom line.

"The cost of a breeding soundness exam is going to vary from $20 to $30. So again, it's the cheapest insurance a producer can buy to ensure that the bull they're trusting to get the cows pregnant is capable, so at the end of the year there are high pregnancy rates, no open cows and a lot of calves to sell the following year," Mr Bridges said.

The exam consists of a series of assessments to check for injury, structural soundness and sperm quality.

"We always recommend bulls undergo a breeding soundness exam at least 30 days prior to the breeding season," he said. "If the bull fails the exam for a reason that we believe he will recover from, that 30 days gives us time to come back and check that bull again. If the bull completely fails, it gives the producer time to find and purchase another bull."

Almost any large animal veterinarian can administer the test, which Mr Bridges said is not a time-consuming process.

"A breeding soundness exam is not going to take all day," he said. "As long as producers have their bulls in an area where they can get them up, catch them and restrain them in a chute, it's a quick process."

Purdue Extension, in conjunction with local cattleman's associations, also will host a series of breeding soundness exam clinics in various Indiana counties this spring. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact the Purdue Extension educators listed below.

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