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It's Never Too Early to Begin Bull Development

Nancy Glazier, Small Farms & Livestock
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

July 29, 2014
It's Never Too Early to Begin Bull Development

Many farms in the Northeast have a restricted breeding season. This breeding cycle calendar needs to be matched with the bull's sexual development, if a young bull is to be used as a herd sire. This is economically sound reasoning since less feed expense is associated with an older bull. In young bulls, scrotal circumference (SC) is positively correlated with testicular weight, sperm output, and fertility [Bagu, et al. 2006]. At times young, immature bulls have poor semen quality and low sperm production. A breeding soundness exam is essential prior to breeding season. Part of the exam includes scrotal circumference measurement which estimates testicular size. The amount of scrotal fat also has an effect on the circumference. Overly high-energy diets tend to increase this amount of fat; generally a gain of less than 3.5 lbs per day is reduces excess fat deposition. Too small of a circumference may mean poor fertility. A low conception rate within the herd is definitely not an equal trade-off for using a young bull!

The first months of a bull calf's life has pronounced effects on LH (luteinizing hormone) secretion and sexual development. This development involves a transient rise in circulating gonadotropin concentrations between 2 and 6 months of age. The role of LH secretion during this time of gonadotropin rise is determined by age at puberty and testicular size. Puberty is defined when a bull can ejaculate 50 million sperm and with 10% motility. Semen quality and quantity is essential for sperm motility. This effect of LH has been verified with a number of studies. The early post-natal increase in mean serum LH concentrations was greater in bull calves that reached puberty early as compared to late [Bagu, et al. 2006]. Interestingly, exogenous (added) LH did not bring on commence of early puberty. Improved nutrition after this period will not compensate that early critical period. Bull calves fed at a maintenance level after this period will still benefit from the early high plane of nutrition [Brito et al. 2007].

Nutrition during this early development period is critical. Low levels of nutrition may delay maturity. Whether this is due to the cow or feed may depend on each operation. First-calf heifers may have lower milk supply and/or pasture or feed may be of poorer quality are two possibilities. Many farms will graze cow-calf pairs with little attention paid to the pastures through the season; nutrition is usually not addressed until post-weaning. This reinforces the importance of rotational grazing and always having quality forage available to the pairs. The animals may have plenty to eat, but if they have to expend more energy finding enough means less energy for growth and development. Creep feeding is an excellent way to provide additional supplementation to growing calves, and in some cases supplementation may be beneficial to the cows.

The NY All Forage Fed Bull Test will be evaluating bulls again this winter at the Cornell University Ruminant Center in Dryden. Please contact me if you are interested in additional information.

Article references:

E.T. Bagu, S.J. Cook, A. Honaramooz, J.P. Aravindakshan, S. Huchkowsky, N.C. Rawlings. Changes in serum luteinizing hormone (LH) concentrations in response to luteinizing hormone releasing hormone
(LHRH) in bull calves that attained puberty early or late. Theriogenology. 66 (2006) 937-944.

Brito LF, Barth AD, Rawlings NC, Wilde RE, Crews DH Jr, Mir PS, et al. Effect of nutrition during calfhood and peripubertal period on serum metabolic hormones, gonadotropins and testosterone concentrations, and on sexual development in bulls. Domest Anim Endocrinol. 2007; 33:1-18.

Effect of growth rate from 6 to 16 months of age on sexual development and reproductive function in beef bulls. L.F.C. Brito, A.D. Bartha, R.E. Wildeb, J.P. Kastelicb. Theriogenology 77 (2012) 1398-1405.











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Beginning Farmer/Hobby Farmer Workshop $5/pp, class size is limited, so pre-register by April 15th!

April 27, 2019
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Canandaigua, NY

This hands-on workshop is for beginning or part-time farmers who would like to improve their farm machinery skills, learn to properly and safely maintain their equipment to protect their investment. If you have been thinking about buying a tractor, new or used, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, compact or utility or more come join us. Topics include: selecting the right size/type tractor for the job; basic maintenance; staying safe around tractors and equipment; attaching implements properly; and information about ROPS and SMV's. There will be time for questions.

Pre-registration requested by April 15, 2019 email Amy with your name, address, and phone number or call 585-394-3977 x 429.
Fee: $5.00/person. Class size is limited.

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2019 Pastured Poultry Seminar, lunch included so please register by May 10th! $25/person

May 18, 2019
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.w/ coffee & donuts with the Program running from 9:00 a.m. - 5 p. m.
Attica, NY

The main speaker this year is Eli Reiff of Mifflinburg Pennsylvania. Eli raises broilers, turkeys, sheep, and beef, all on pasture. Topics to be covered will include the pasture, feed and nutrition, marketing, costs, and much more. As we grow as farm operators and get bigger, we may not pay as much attention to the basics as we should. So those areas are where we will start, and then expand to cover the group's interests.

Mike Badger, Director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association will also be available for a round-table discussion. Plans are to have representatives from Farm Bureau, NYCAMH for farm health and safety, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, as well as others.

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Calling all 9th-12th graders! 4th Annual Precision Agriculture Day at Genesee Community College

May 21, 2019
9:00 am - 1:30 pm Register by Friday May 10th! $15/per person includes lunch
Batavia, NY

Calling all 9th-12th graders!  We have an exciting new program for students interested in technology, science, engineering, and agriculture!
Would you like to:
  • Learn about how Drones collect information
  • Check out some potential career opportunities that have new and ever-changing technology
  • Learn how these technologies can be used in our own backyards in WNY
  • Discover potential and exciting career opportunities

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Producers Previously Enrolled in the LGM Program Now Eligible for MPP

Dairy Producers Previously Enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin Program Now Eligible for 2018 Margin Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program (LGM-Dairy) now have the opportunity to participate in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) for 2018 coverage. Sign-up will take place March 25 through May 10, 2019.
Eligible producers can enroll during the sign-up period at their local USDA service center. To locate your office, visit

Smart Farming Team Technical Assistance Grant Application

The Labor Ready Farmer Project is offering grants to provide up to 12 hours of Technical Assistance (TA) consulting services to farms who want to make improvements to their farm's processes in hiring, training, managing or evaluating employees. Applicants will choose from one of the following four areas for TA assistance and identify a specific project. If selected they will be matched with a "Smart Farming Team" of consultants who will provide one on one technical assistance.
Please complete this application and send to Nicole Waters, Beginning Farm Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. The form can be submitted by email, mail or in-person at the address listed below. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.

Nicole Waters - Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator
Plant Science Building, Room 15b
Tower Road, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-255-9911

Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

USDA Announces January Income over Feed Cost Margin Triggers First 2019 Dairy Sa

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2019 ? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that the January 2019 income over feed cost margin was $7.99 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment for eligible dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new but yet-to-be established Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, is a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers that was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that sign up for 
DMC will open by mid-June of this year. At the time of sign up, producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $8.00 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January 2019.

For example, a dairy operation with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) that elects the $9.50 coverage level for 50 percent of its production could potentially be eligible to receive $1,887.50 for January.

Sample calculation:
$9.50 - $7.99 margin = $1.51 difference
$1.51 times 50 percent of production times 2,500 cwt. (30,000 cwt./12) = $1,887.50

The calculated annual premium for coverage at $9.50 on 50 percent of a 3-million-pound production history for this example would be $2,250.

Sample calculation:
3,000,000 times 50 percent = 1,500,000/100 = 15,000 cwt. times 0.150 premium fee = $2,250

Operations making a one-time election to participate in DMC through 2023 are eligible to receive a 25 percent discount on their premium for the existing margin coverage rates.

"Congress created the Dairy Margin Coverage program to provide an important financial safety net for dairy producers, helping them weather shifting milk and feed prices," FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. "This program builds on the previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy, carrying forward many of the program upgrades made last year based on feedback from producers. We're working diligently to implement the DMC program and other FSA programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill."

Additional details about DMC and other FSA farm bill program changes can be found at

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1