On the Blog

The investment in a bull

Bull-buying season is in full swing. Many cattlemen spend the time leading up to the sale flipping through catalogs to find bulls that will fit in with their operation and continue to progress their herd genetically. Your priorities for your bulls may be different from your neighbors’, depending on what your goals are and which of those goals are the most economically important for your production and marketing system. Are you going to retain ownership and keep replacement heifers? If so, you need a bull that will sire problem-free females that will thrive in your environment. Or maybe you will retain ownership through the feed yard; in that case, you may place more emphasis on carcass and growth traits. No matter your goals, you are looking for a bull that will successfully get the cows bred and get calves on the ground.

You have made a sizable investment into your operation, both financially and in the genetic and reproductive performance of your cow herd once the bulls are purchased. The care and management of the bulls under your watch will determine the full potential of your investment.

Bull nutrition

The nutritional needs of the bull are determined by the bull’s age and current body condition. Yearling and two-year-old bulls are still growing; as such, they normally require more nutrition than older bulls. Mature bulls should be in a body condition score (BCS) of 6 (based on the U.S. BCS scale of 1 to 9) at turnout. Since yearling bulls are typically more active during the breeding season compared to older bulls, they should carry slightly more condition, closer to a 6.5 BCS at turnout.

Whether you need to put additional weight on your bulls or take some off, this process will take time. If additional condition needs to be put on your bulls, start preparing bulls 3 to 5 months prior to turnout by providing them a protein supplement in addition to forages. Not only do CRYSTALYX® supplements have the essential minerals and vitamins critical for fertility, but the added protein they include will also help improve the overall digestibility of the forages and will give the bulls the ability to extract more energy out of those forages.

The specific protein level needed is determined by the quality of the forage being offered. If feeding a medium-quality forage, with around 7–11% crude protein and NDF levels at or below 63%, a CRYSTALYX supplement with at least 17–20% crude protein is recommended. This could include CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® 17 Mag, if grass tetany is a concern, or Blueprint® 20 AN or Blueprint® Breed-Up® 20 for the greatest trace mineral fortification and advanced technology. For bulls on a lower-quality forage, look for the CRYSTALYX supplements with 28% or more crude protein. For bulls under two years of age, CRYSTALYX® Iono-lyx® B300 could be a viable option, with 28% protein plus the added benefits of Bovatec®, the leading ionophore feed additive for pasture cattle.

Even if the bulls are in good shape, a mineral supplement is still necessary and is critical for maximizing fertility. The specific minerals that are essential for maximizing top performance are outlined in a previous blog from CRYSTALYX. Mature sperm cells are produced over a 60-day period prior to breeding; therefore, it is important to provide proper nutrition for quite some time leading up to turnout. CRYSTALYX® Brigade® has been a popular supplement for bulls, as it delivers a high level of trace minerals and vitamins, with some of those trace minerals provided as Bioplex®.

For the most advanced technology available in a supplement, the Blueprint® line is recommended. Blueprint features the total replacement of inorganic trace minerals with Bioplex organic trace minerals, which are more readily absorbed and used more efficiently by the animal. Blueprint® 6% Phos or Blueprint® Breed-Up® Max can provide the most advanced technology in trace mineral nutrition.

Other management factors

Bulls need to be very athletic and have a lot of stamina during the breeding season. To prepare for breeding, exercise is important. CRYSTALYX supplements can be placed in the pasture or in a large pen away from watering or loafing areas to encourage exercise. These palatable, molasses-based supplements will encourage consumption while controlling intake, allowing bulls to move around and come back for more. As they are available 24/7, self-fed supplements also help eliminate competition between bulls at the feeder — which, in turn, will help minimize the risk of injury to your bull as he prepares for breeding season.

Additionally, don’t forget about preparing the cowherd during this time for the upcoming breeding season. Although you may be deep into calving, breeding is just around the corner, and you might want to consider maintaining or even shortening your calving interval. The Breed-Up® and Blueprint® Breed-Up® line of supplements will fit the needs of your cows during this time, when we are demanding a lot out of them. Try the options with Bio-Mos® 2, which helps promote good gut health and nutrient absorption to support overall performance and body condition following calving.

Performance is a function of both management and genetics. The genetically advanced cattle we select today can only perform as well as we manage and support them through a proper health and nutrition program. Provide superior nutrition to the bulls that you have invested in to maximize your return during the breeding season. Give them a palatable, self-fed CRYSTALYX supplement, fortified with the top nutrition through Blueprint technology. With CRYSTALYX, performance is served to your bulls.

For more information visit your local CRYSTALYX dealer.