Looking after the bull: guide to management and assessment of fertility

01 Mar 2019

Statham, J., Burton, K., Spilman, M.

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Despite commanding such an important role in both achieving reproductive success and introducing new genetics, the bull remains an often overlooked part of the cattle herd. Fertility performance remains central to profitable beef and dairy production. Although artificial insemination (AI) is used extensively in the UK dairy industry, natural service with ‘sweeper bulls’ is still common, either exclusively or as an adjunct to AI. The UK beef suckler industry remains dominated by natural service, although the use of AI is rising. Bull performance is highly significant in both sectors, but with very few suckler herds actually in profit (EBLEX 2009), the beef sector, in particular, can ill-afford poor reproductive results. This is of particular significance when considering the uncertainty in this sector associated with exit from the European Union (EU) and thus the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This article discusses the role of the bull and provides a guide to managing the different aspects of bull production, including assessing a bull’s fertility.