QMS recommends fertility tests for bulls
Published:  15 May, 2014

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) is urging Scottish suckler herd farmers to think about a ‘Bull MOT’ to ensure cows can reproduce next spring.

QMS has put together a ‘Guide to Improving Suckler Herd Fertility’, which aims to help farmers assess their herd’s performance, and which reveals that over one-quarter of all working bulls are sub-fertile or infertile. In order to prevent this, QMS has advised farmers to undertake a pre-breeding soundness (PBS) check.

Checks should be undergone four to eight weeks before bulls are turned out, allowing enough time to re-test if necessary and to source a replacement bull if it is found to be sub-fertile.

Graeme Richardson, director and senior vet at Thrums Veterinary Group, Kirriemuir, Angus, who has been carrying out PBS checks for 10 years, said: “Our customers fall into three categories: those who have had a problem with a bull; those who carry out the checks routinely; and those who get new purchases checked. Unfortunately, many farmers come to us because they have had a problem, but hopefully we can reduce the chances of the same thing happening again.

“Testicle size and quality of semen are obvious indicators of fertility.  However, sometimes a bull with good fertility is not getting cows in calf because of a lameness issue. The end results are the same – a reduction in conception rate, leading to more empty cows and a protracted calving period.”

PBS checks also provide a bull report, which estimates how many cows it should be serving within a 10-week period. One farmer who uses PBS checks, James Osborne, has 250 spring calving Limousin cross cows and 10 Limousin bulls. He said: “The PBS examination is worthwhile and cost-effective and, most importantly, gives us peace of mind when bulls are turned out far away from the farm and we cannot watch them all the time.”