I GET a lot of enquiries from farmers who want to know different things about their bulls. One farmer feels that his bull is getting lazy. In other words it is no longer mounting as it used to do. It has somehow lost the touch.
Others will be trying to find out what they could do to keep their bull which seems to endlessly follow other herds and does very little servicing at home.
The last one is the infuriating one for most smallholder communal farmers. The bull spends most of its time following other herds and paying no attention to the herd at home. The farmer feels betrayed and that he is not benefiting from keeping the bull.
In some cases farmers have sold their bulls purely from the frustration of a delinquent bull. All this point to the fact that managing a bull is in itself a fulltime vocation for a farmer hence the need for us to look at the basics. Firstly, if your bull is under-utilised because you have a small herd of cows it will spend most of its time looking for mating mates from other herds.
Therefore, it is important for a farmer to have a properly constituted herd with adequate females that are mature enough to be mated. However, outside the mating quota one singular important aspect to manage in your bull is nutrition.
It is important to keep your bull in a good body condition of a score between 3,5 and 4. A thin bull will be too weak to pursue cows on heat. Smallholder farmers tend to neglect their bulls to the extent where you find ultrathin bulls roaming the veld.
You can’t even admire the bull when you see it. Nutrition is therefore a very important factor that every farmer who is keeping a bull should consider more so if you have young bulls. Semen production of an underfed young bull is only 77 percent of the production of an adequately fed bull.
If a young bull is allowed to get too thin, it will lag behind in semen production for the rest of its life even if nutrition is brought back to appropriate levels. Poor energy levels delay puberty in bulls. A young bull that is not developed properly nutritionally will be slow in maturing. If you do not take care of bulls properly there is a greater chance of sub-optimal fertility in those bulls.
On the other hand you do not want to over- feed your bull so that it becomes too fat. Getting bulls too fat will decrease their libido especially in older bulls. A good mineral programme is also an important part of nutrition management.
You need the appropriate levels of trace minerals to complement your feeds. Bulls should be on the same mineral programme as your cows to make up for any lack in your soils or feeds. Another factor which is important in bull management is disease prevention and control.
Your bull should be protected from diseases through vaccination for common diseases. A sickly bull will definitely not service and cows will come in and out of heat with no attention from the bull. It is therefore important to ensure that our bull always has a clean bill of health so that he is stress free and hence can mount cows on heat. Bulls should also be protected from physical injuries that may discourage it to mount. These are very common especially among smallholder communal farmers who also use the bulls for draught power. Also boys herding your cattle enjoy watching territorial fights between bulls and these can result in serious injuries and must be avoided at all cost. Your bull is your most expensive animal especially for those with high quality exotic breed bulls and hence it is imperative to give it utmost care. Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo.
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