Evaluating Bull Condition
A great many farmers in the Ozarks use natural cover for their cow herds, so producers are reminded that the boys in the herd need a little TLC.
Once bulls are pulled from the herd, his vacation time is a good time to evaluate their overall condition, and decide whether or not they need some extra groceries to get him back up to an acceptable weight.
The first step to determining the condition of the bull is to determine his overall Body Condition Score (BCS).
According to an article by the University of Missouri Extension, Body Condition Scores (BCS) are numbers on a scale used to describe the relative fatness or body composition of the cow. The scoring system in Missouri has a range of 1 to 9, with 1 representing very thin cows and 9 representing very fat cows. A cow with a BCS of 5 is said to be in average condition; however, descriptions of an “average” conditioned cow vary. For BCS to be most helpful, producers need to calibrate the 1 to 9 system under their own conditions.” Charts to assist with this can be found on the extension website. If the bull scores less than 5, producers should take action to get him back in shape.
There are several other telltale indicators of the condition. How is his attitude? Is he bright eyed and alert, or does he seem lethargic? How is his coat and hoof health, is his coat shiny and his hooves crack free? Or does his coat look dull and patchy? Does he look fit, or are his muscles atrophied?
If the producer determines that the bull needs a bigger ration to condition him properly, care should be taken to not overfeed – a bull that is overweight has a low sperm count.
Mature bulls need on the order of 24 to 30 pounds of mediocre grass hay or dormant grass and, in most instances, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of a 38 to 45 percent crude protein supplement, along with about 15 to 18 grams of phosphorous and 25,000-28,000 IUs of vitamin A daily. Trace mineral requirements will depend on the area and soil type,
Producers should also remember that younger bulls have different dietary needs than that of mature bulls.
According to the University of Arkansas Extension, younger bulls require less quantity but higher quality diets. While daily dry matter intake generally increases with increasing body weight, crude protein (CP) requirement as a percentage of dry matter intake declines. Younger bulls require higher protein percentages for the rapid lean muscle growth that is occurring during early development.
Producers will succeed at keeping their bulls in good condition through observation and knowing their animal, coupled with feeding an appropriate amount of a good quality ration.
With good body conditioning, the bull will be raring to go come next breeding season.