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Oestrus Detection In Dairy Cattle How To Beat The Bull

Following on from our last article how to select a house cow, lets deal with the other side of the equation a bull.

If you only have a house cow, then you are not going to want to run a bull the whole time. He will get bored, with only having one girl and will go through fences looking for something else. This is going to make you very unpopular with your neighbours besides the drama of bringing him home each time.

We know someone who was an absentee landlord and their bull kept wandering into the cattle stud next door. Despite numerous phone calls, very little was done, to keep the bull in. After 12 months they wondered why they were not getting any calves. They called the vet to find their bull had been castrated. I guess that stopped his wanderlust.

When we had our house cow, we would run her up the road to a neighbours bull. He bred cattle commercially and we were only on 25 acres. It worked very well, until, the area built up and we suddenly had more neighbours. Walking a cow up the road became a bit hairy as the new "city slickers" would drive their car at flat out speed down the road. After all, they couldn't do that on the highway!

So, our next option was to get Rent A Bull. This person had quiet bulls that he hired out for little money. The downside of that was that you had a bull you didn't know. I had backlined one of his bulls and fed him dairy meal along with the cow only to find out that this bull had never eaten hard feed in his life and had certainly never experienced anyone coming up to him with a backliner. Well, ignorance is bliss and because I thought he had always had that done, I proceeded with confidence. What's more, he let me!

Anyway, I get off the track. We got him and we had three cows at the time. See we had increased our herd. Well, he served them all, broke through the fence (well it was only plain wire though our cows stayed in it) and promptly went walkabout down the road. The other problem was that he took our cows with him. I found him with the hiefer down the road who was on season and he didn't want to come home! It was hard but after getting him home we put him in an electrically fenced paddock. He hit the wire ONCE and stayed put in the middle of the paddock for several days. Just a thought on how you might want to fence.

When we went commercial many years ago and moved from our 25 acres, our first job was to buy a bull for our "girls". Well, I had read all the books and the testicles are the part to look for. The bigger they are, means that his heifers will come into season earlier for breeding as long as they reach their optimum weight. This means more returns. So, we went to a bull sale and looked at all the "would be's". Now the scrotum measurements are usually in the office where you can get them for each bull. This makes selection easier. Well there weren't any records in the office were there! So, I decided that the manual eye evaluation way was the best. However, as I looked under each bull, Vic found it too much and left me. Didn't want to be seen with a bull fetish!

At last it was narrowed down to two. By this time a gentleman with a bemused look on his face, came over and said "I gather this is your first bull?" Now how did he know? He approved the two that were picked out and asked why I hadn't chosen the one with the champion ribbon. I said I don't know, just don't like him. He then pointed out that he had white feet and really shouldn't have got the ribbon. Now I knew about white feet from our horses but I hadn't even considered white feet in bulls. Now by this time Vic had returned hoping against hope that I was in an upright position. I said, we now have to check for white feet. So we looked at the two we had chosen and thank goodness they had black hooves, so all was well. We eventually bought one of the chosen ones.

As you can see, there are some problems facing bull selection. Maybe thats why Artificial Insemination is so popular but then that's another story!

"ABOUT THE AUTHORS": Vic & Rose Rushton are recognised as leading authorities on organic farming. Their web site provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on organic farming