NDSU Extension - Griggs County

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January 12

 The Extension Connection

By Megan Vig

We experienced frigid cold temperatures recently. Those -40°F wind chills sure makes a person appreciate anything in the positive digits, especially if you are tending to livestock. This week I share an article from Dr. Kris Ringwall, NDSU Beef Specialist regarding the aftermath of these chilly, chilly temperatures.

Make sure your bulls are not left out in the cold. Bulls have a scrotum that is designed to allow heat out of the body and away from the testicles. The bull will not tolerate frigid temperatures without respectable bedding and wind protection. Bulls exposed to wind and cold could be neutered by morning. More than likely, there will be enough testicular tissue left to make good teaser bulls. However, since the sperm must exit at the bottom of the testis, any frozen testicles are pretty much irreplaceable.

Generally, the testis does not freeze and the damage usually is limited to the scrotum. Check all bulls for scrotal swelling, which would be followed by the sloughing of dead skin. In such cases, the heat of the inflamed scrotum actually damages the sperm producing and storage capacity of the bull’s reproductive system, which generally renders the bull infertile for a couple of months.

All bulls should have an annual breeding soundness exam. If breeding soundness exams have not been a practice within your operation, it certainly should be this year. Do the test in late March or early April. Bull nutrition also is important. Bulls can gain 300 pounds a year. Stunting their growth and expecting the production of several billion sperm cells in the spring is unrealistic. Dry-matter intake tables (Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle, Seventh Revised Edition) indicates a 2,000-pound bull should eat 32 pounds per day. As the bull adds weight, daily dry-matter intake could be up to 38 pounds. Add it up and make sure your bulls are getting the right amount of a balanced ration for proper maintenance and growth.

In addition, keep an eye out for those bulls that have developed structural problems. Bulls can walk out of the fall breeding pasture, but a few good hits while getting reacquainted with the other bulls, plus a winter of very cold temperatures, can lead to structural difficulties that will prevent the bull from being an effective breeder. Watch the market and, when the time is right, send those bulls to town. Source: NDSU Ag Comm.

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