Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation: Your best investment insurance

A bull breeding soundness evaluation (BBSE) is the subject of a new video on the FutureBeef YouTube channel.

“It’s important to measure bull fertility to ensure the bull is sound and able to join cows efficiently at the start of the breeding season” explains veterinarian and star of the video, Jo Connolly.

A BBSE includes a physical examination, semen testing to examine motility and morphology (percent normal sperm) and a scrotal circumference measurement.

Bull Check is the Australian Cattle Veterinarians accredited scheme for assessing bull soundness. Accredited veterinarians undergo additional training and examination to ensure all vets are at a set standard.

Jo starts the physical examination with the bull in a race. “We examine his joints and hooves, making sure that he’s sound. We have a look right around the bull checking that his eyes and his head is okay; we make sure that his sheath and prepuce has no abnormalities. I’ll examine the upper reproductive tract, which is the prostate, the ampullae and the seminal vesicles just to make sure there are no abscesses”.

“I take the scrotal circumference measurement around the diameter of the greatest part of the testicles” Jo continues. The scrotal circumference measurement is important as it’s a check that the bull has the potential to produce enough semen over the mating period.  “To assess semen quality, I’ll do a crush side test assessing the motility, which is the forward progression of the semen and I give that a percentage out of 100. The semen sample is sent to an accredited morphology assessor. I can’t examine it crush side; you need a high-powered microscope to make sure there are no defects”.

While a BBSE is an important gauge on a bull’s fertility, it is just a snapshot in time. “The bull can walk out the crush and get an injury that will impact on his fertility. An injury or illness often with a spike in temperature will damage the sperm” Jo advises.

Mark Madew of Cundarra Santa Gertrudis stud in Western Australia started doing Bull Checks 4 or 5 years ago. “It was originally to ensure our breeding bulls were fit and ready to work at the start of each breeding season” Mark explains in the video. “Secondly it ensures that the bulls we sell as part of our seed stock operation are fit and guaranteed to work for the people that buy them. It’s a critical part of our operation and I’d encourage commercial producers to consider doing it. There’s no way of telling a bulls fertility just by looking at him you need to test him and make sure he is working” Mark concludes.