A Cowboy’s Faith: Bulls have important job

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Cows can’t have calves unless they’ve made love with a bull.”

The comment might sound snide or perhaps a not-so-funny joke to livestock people. Still it is a fact that those unfamiliar with animal agriculture sometimes don’t know or understand.

That’s off the subject, but there’s much more to it than male bovines having romantic occasions with female bovines.

The point-in-fact has been coming apparent to many cow-calf herd managers in recent weeks. Their bulls aren’t getting done what’s expected of them. From basic animal science, cows have estrus cycles when they become bred to have a calf after a bull’s lovemaking.

For a cow to have a calf, first off all of her reproduction system must be working right. Her bull friend must want to do a little proper hanky-panky and make a fertile insemination to start calf growth.

Before bulls are turned out with cows, today’s operators generally insist on a fertility check. An infertile bull is no different than a steer really; he enjoys romance but nothing will ever come of it.

However, a lot can happen from the day the pasture gate opens, turning a bull out with a cowherd. Generally nowadays more than one bull is with a herd to serve as backup breeding insurance.

Opinions vary as with most of agriculture, but usually it’s figured that one bull can successfully breed about 25 cows. So mathematically there’d be two bulls out with 50 cows.

In the olden days, bulls were often two years old before being expected to successfully mate cows, but modernization has changed. Nowadays, sometimes yearling bulls and commonly those just 18 months old are expected to effectively breed cows of all ages.

Young bulls often have more romantic inclinations and old bulls sometimes aren’t as frisky as they once were. They like shade trees.

After a bull is turned with cows, many things can go wrong. That includes lameness, injury to male organ, lack of mating desire, and other problems.

If cows aren’t bred to calve, a bull is worthless to the cowman and must be replaced. Cowherd profits only come when a cow has a calf to sell.

Interesting is the Biblical importance of bulls being mentioned no less than 163 times.

Reminded of Job 21:10: “Their bull breeds and fails not; their cows calve and do not miscarry.”


030615-franksmug2Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a radio marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.


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