Breeding season is fast approaching, and although the use of artificial insemination (AI) grows year-on-year, stock bulls still have a place on many farms.

There is an increased risk with having a bull on the farm, but there are also a number of benefits. The decision to have a bull or not will be made on an individual farm basis.

Breeding season

On farms where a stock bull is present, there are number of things that should be done before breeding gets underway.

Any stockbull on your farm needs to be fertility tested before breeding gets underway. An infertile bull could lead to catastrophic results when scanning time comes around.

If the bull has recently been purchased the likelihood is that he was sold fertility tested – but it may be worthwhile to double check.

There’s a wide range of things that could impact on a bull’s fertility and result in him becoming infertile or sub-fertile.

The issue with not checking a bull’s fertility is how long it will take to notice that there is an issue without testing him before turnout.

At the very minimum, you are going to lose three weeks from the breeding season, but the likelihood is you will lose much longer.


For a spring-calving herd, this time of year is often when bulls are purchased – but a number of considerations should come into play before purchasing any bull.

Firstly the herd size and distance that has to be walked should be considered, as depending on herd size and distances of walks two bulls may be required.

The health status of the herd of the bull being purchased is very important and you should also give enough time for an isolation period and also for an vaccination to take place.

The bred of the bull is also important, when purchasing a beef sire for use on dairy cows gestation and ease of calving are important factors to consider.

But, so is the genetic potential of the off-spring, you want to be producing high quality calves that will sell easily and achieve reasonable prices.

Decisions should be based on figures and not just looks, as the end goal is to have an animal that produces calves to sell and cows milking in the parlour.

Turning out the bull

It is a legal requirement that a bull is ringed when they are 10-months-of-age. When a bull is turned out to grass, it is recommended that a chain is attached to the ring.

This should offer some possibility of controlling the bull, should he attack.

There are also a number of things that need to be considered before the bull is turned out with the cows.

How many cows are potentially not in calf needs to be determined, as well as whether or not the bull will be able to cover these cows.

If too many cows are not in calf, the bull may struggle to cover them all and you may have a higher empty rate.

You should also be continuing with AI for about a week after the bull has been turned out. This is to give him time to get up and running.