Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics
Placeholder image

Tips for Buying a Stockbull this Spring

17 April 2024
Type Media Article

Patricia Lynch, Drystock Advisor, Teagasc Ballinrobe.

The calving season is coming to a close which can only mean the breeding season is fast approaching and according to Teagasc research four out of every five calves born on beef farms are sired by a stock bull. The purchasing of a stock bull is one that requires some serious thought and consideration.  A bull has the potential to contribute up to 50% of the genetics on the farm thus having a huge impact on the productivity and profitability of the herd going forward.

What to look for when purchasing a stock bull?

Different farmers are going to have different criteria that they look for when buying a new stock bull for the herd. If the farm is not retaining heifers as replacements, or selling heifers on for breeding, then the terminal traits will be the main focus. If you are aiming to breed replacements females then you will be targeting a balance of maternal traits. SCEP participants should be looking for four or five star on either the terminal or replacement indexes or both.  Also under the requirements of the scheme calves born on the farm must be sired by a genotyped 4 or 5 star bull.  

Other factors to consider is reliability, the higher the reliability figure is the less likely that a bull’s breeding values will change considerably in the future.  It is even better still if a bull has their genomic evaluation completed at the time of purchase. One of the most important figures that needs to be looked at before any purchase is made is the calving difficulty figures. If you want a bull to serve all cows and heifers on the farm then the calving difficulty figures are critical.  For first time calving heifers check the Beef Heifers calving difficulty figure of the stockbull.  Ideally select a bull with a beef heifer calving difficulty figure of less than 7.5%.  As for mature suckler cows check the Beef Cows figure.  To reduce calf mortality and labour around calving look to source a bull with high reliability figures on calving difficulty.

Below is a list of key things a farmer needs to consider to ensure their bull’s fertility.

  1. Bull fertility check- A bull’s fertility status can change, from year to year. Therefore, it is good practice to have a fertility test carried out on the stock bull, prior to start of breeding season. It is estimated that twenty five percent of stock bulls are sub-fertile. The cost of the test is very low if you compare it to carrying empty cows for the summer and results are available to you before the technician leaves the yard.
  2. Body Condition score-A bull must be able to maintain body condition score (ideally BCS 3), repeatedly mount and serve cows for 12 weeks and have a long working life in the herd. If you have bought a bull, find out from the seller what diet and current concentrates he is being fed and vaccinations he has received.
  3. Health- Consult your vet for advice on the health of the bull. Remember a young bull in his first season should serve no more than 20 cows.
  4. Nutrition- It is important to avoid sudden changes and not to over feed the bull as this can reduce fertility and lead to feet problems. He needs to be fit but not over-fat.
  5. Visual check- Before the breeding season check feet and legs are good and take remedial action if required well in advance of the breeding season.
  6. Observe- Watch the bull working to check he is serving cows correctly.
  7. Rotate- If possible rotate bulls or scan cows early so that an infertile bull or sub fertile bull can be identified early.
  8. Records- Record when you see a cow being mated and watch for signs of cows coming on heat repeatedly.
  9. Issues- If a large number of your cows are repeating, you need to take action to find out what is wrong. You must be prepared to start using AI or if you have a second bull with another group of cows, he may be utilised to serve more cows.
  10. Pregnancy scanning - When it is at least 35 days since the last cow in the herd could have been served then you should consider scanning the cows. It offers many advantages.