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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.











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Upcoming Events

2019 Corn Silage Pre-Harvest Workshop - Penn Yan

September 17, 2019
10:00am to Noon
Penn Yan, NY

Corn silage harvest is drawing near. The way corn silage is harvested and stored is a single event that affects your operation for the entire next year. Are you prepared to set your operation up for success? 
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Ontario County Fun on the Farm

September 21, 2019
11:00 am- 4:00 pm
Seneca Castle, NY

Fun on the Farm works to educate non-farm public and our neighbors about agriculture around them. It is fun and educational.

Fun on the Farm attracts thousands of people and gives us the opportunity to communicate to the community the benefits of the agricultural production in Ontario County, the state, and the nation.

The event is free! There are many agricultural products that are available to be sampled. It is the perfect place to try that product you have seen in the store but didn't want to commit to purchasing.

Food is available to purchase for lunch. It is provided by a local service group.
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Bovine Reproduction and AI Training Course

September 24 - September 25, 2019
9:30am - 3:30pm
Shortsville, NY


This two-day AI workshop will be held on September 24 and 25. 

Topics covered will include:

• Reproductive Physiology
• Synchronization Protocols
• Heat Detection
• Artificial Insemination
• Proper Thawing of Semen
• Loading A.I. guns
• Practice Breeding Cows

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Preventing Sexual Harassment on Farms

If you're wondering how to get your farm business in compliance with NYS Sexual Harassment Regulations, you've come to the right place.  The 2018 New York State budget included new regulations addressing sexual harassment in the workplace that became effective on October 9, 2018 for all New York employers, including agricultural employers. All employers are required to have a sexual harassment prevention policy and to provide annual, interactive sexual harassment prevention training for all employees.  Check out the resources developed by Cornell Ag Workforce Development, including step-by-step instructions and farm-friendly training videos.

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."