The Bull Quandary: Are you up to the challenge of keeping a bull?

| 12/6/2012 10:32:25 AM

Is there a more heartwarming and majestic sight than gorgeous old-fashioned cows in a peaceful grassy meadow, calves scampering by their sides? Think that’s a sight you’d like to see from your own front porch? Awesome. But have you given much considered thought to exactly how those calves will come to be?


Jackie Cleary and one of her cattleAccepting responsibility for the future of rare breed animals is an undertaking not unlike adopting children. While it is joyful and rewarding work, there are challenges and sacrifices as well. Those genes are precious and in need of committed stewardship which requires a measure of diligence and accountability you should be sure you’re prepared to give.

Your successful breeding program hinges on one key decision: keeping a bull and breeding naturally or implementing a plan for Artificial Insemination. And of course, to make your decision harder, there are both positives and negatives to each approach.

My own choice is to keep a bull and let the cows handle things in as natural a manner as I can provide. The benefits are that I remove human error. My bull knows the perfect time to breed each cow much better than I do. His application of semen is more accurate, the bull has no schedule conflict with the cow’s estrus cycle and the vitality is superior. My rate of conception has been 100% with all calves delivered within a short window. Of course it is inevitable due to age or health one day one of my cows will not conceive on time – it is a numbers game, and my numbers are small yet. Still, I will never match my bull’s success rate with artificial insemination.

But I’m not here to say that my decision is the right answer for everyone. The obvious disadvantage to natural service is the bull. Who wants an oafish, destructive, dangerous beast around? Are you worried you may not be up to the challenge? I surely was, still am and probably always will be. Wonder what it’s like to have a bull? Most of the time, it’s no big deal. But sometimes, those bulls become a very big deal - check out this tale of a recent bull-centric week on my farm.

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