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Throughout the next couple of months, beef producers will have numerous opportunities to purchase quality herd sires at select sales across Texas.
Young bulls should be managed properly to sustain their body condition and optimize overall performance during breeding season.
“Those bulls will be more fragile because they are still growing and you will have to take care of them,” said Rob Brown, owner of R.A. Brown Ranch in Throckmorton, where herd sire genetics include Angus, Red Angus, Simmental and Senegus.
Brown said producers will get more performance from a bull that’s in top range-ready body condition.
“We like to grow a bull on forage as long as we can to give his joints time to harden and so he gets exercise,” Brown said.
Bulls that are grown too quickly, raised on a high-concentrate ration and kept in small pens without exercise can break down once turned out with cows.
In other words, Brown said, their feet and legs might not hold up to repeated breedings or they might lack the stamina to consistently locate and breed cows in estrus.
“He’s got to be physically in shape to cover some country — find and mate cows. Out here in West Texas, it’s a cow to 20 to 30 acres. He’s got some country to cover,” Brown said.
He added that bulls aged 18 to 22 months that are grown correctly should be able to handle breeding 20 to 25 cows.
“Young bulls 15 to 16 months old can certainly be used, but our rule of thumb is a cow to every month of age up to 22 months,” Brown said.
It’s important that a young, growing bull receive adequate energy and protein levels nutritionally.
“A typical dietary ration or crude protein level would be 12 to 14 percent to make sure they get plenty of protein,” said Gordon Carstens, associate professor of beef cattle nutrition at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Carstens said he likes a bull to be at a body condition score of 5 to 6 at the start of breeding season.
Producers should keep in mind that a breeding bull typically eats 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 percent of its body weight in dry matter per day and tends to lose body condition during breeding season, he said.
“It takes 100 pounds to gain one body condition score,” Carstens noted.
Even if forage quality provides adequate energy and protein, cows and bulls should still receive a mineral and vitamin supplement. This should provide them with adequate levels of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium and the trace minerals copper, zinc, selenium and vitamins A and E, he said.
Supplements come in forms ranging from licks to liquid feeds to cubes to hard-cooked molasses tubs.
“Get them on some grass and some [supplement] and don’t let them look at some cows till spring,” said Kenneth Tater, a field representative for Positive Feeds in Sealy.
“[Hard-cooked molasses] tubs help grow bacteria in rumen. Basically, we’re feeding the bacteria in the rumen. The more microbials or bugs in the rumen, the more efficient that animal is going to be,” Tater said. “Tubs are just going to help him digest that forage” and keep his appetite up.
These tubs contain protein, vitamins and minerals and can be left out year-round.
“When you leave tubs out year-round, cattle will let you know when that forage is going down because they go to the supplement when grass quality starts going down,” Tater said.
He agreed with Brown and Carstens that a young bull’s body condition should be monitored through the fall and winter so he hits breeding season in top shape.
Since 1938, the Dudley family has been raising and selling registered Hereford bulls near Comanche in North Central Texas.
“We’re pretty sensitive to trying to put enough condition on our bulls to sustain them without overfinishing them so they won’t fall apart” during breeding season, said John Dudley, a partner in Dudley Brothers ranch in Comanche.
He said most of his herd sire buyers are commercial ranchers from across Texas and Louisiana.
“A lot ranch in pretty harsh conditions,” he said. “You need a little more growth and age on them to handle some of those conditions.”
Throughout the fall and winter, Dudley monitors body condition on the herd bulls to sustain the balance between range-ready and overfinished. He said bulls should be broken to the cow herd’s feeding regimen.
“The most important thing with young bulls is to watch them,” he said.
Routine fertility tests also are performed on bulls at the ranch.
Dudley said producers should avoid overloading bulls with too many cows to breed at turnout, as well as making sure the bulls are in good flesh.
“We expect a young bull to not breed more than 20 to 25 cows,” Dudley said.
All bulls on the ranch are taken up at the same time when the breeding season is over to minimize fighting and injury, Dudley said, “so everybody [bulls] can have their big brag and get it over with at the same time.”
Collier Farms raises purebred and commercial Beefmaster cattle. The ranch usually raises and develops 50 bull calves a year for sale as herd sires. They also have upwards of 50 range and registered Beefmaster herd sires they use on their cow herd.
“We like to develop a good range-ready, forage-developed bull for any size operation. We want it to be a real versatile animal,” said Trey Scherer, ranch manager of Collier Farms in Brenham.
At weaning, calves are vaccinated for bovine respiratory diseases and vibrio lepto and receive an 8-way clostridial. Calves are then turned out on grass pastures. A balanced range mineral is always available.
Bull calves that will be sold as herd sires are left on pasture until the beginning of September or 100 days before marketing. The calves are then fed 1 percent of their body weight with a 50 percent corn ration and built up to 2 percent of their body weight with a 60 percent corn ration until sale time.
“That’s to put that extra body condition score on them prior to sale. Get them at around the 7 range,” Scherer said.
The bull calves that will remain on the farm as herd sires are kept on forage and mineral supplements through the fall and winter. Scherer likes to maintain these bulls at a 6 to 7 body condition score.
About 60 days prior to turnout for breeding, Scherer assesses body condition on the young bulls and adjusts nutrient consumption if necessary. Young and mature herd sires also will receive breeding soundness evaluations.
Bulls ranging from 15 to 18 months of age are used on young heifers. All bulls on the ranch are pulled off of heifers and cows around June 15. They are again dewormed and revaccinated for the loafing season.
Herd bulls are usually kept together by age until the next breeding season, Scherer said.
“Developing and maintaining your young bulls can be expensive, but failure to maintain and check your bulls can result in greater profit losses due to poor performance and pregnancy rates,” he said.