Breeding Soundness Exam Clinic
May 11, 2021
Hi, I'm Phil Durst with Michigan State University Extension. We're doing a Breeding Soundness Exam Clinic here today at the West Branch, Feeder Calf Sale Yard. Andy Katterman you're the president of the of the sale group now? Andy: Yeah. Phil: We appreciate being able to come out and use this facility for the Breeding Soundness Exam. Why are these BSE's important? What is the roll with that and even in the sale that you do? Andy Katterman: So a lot of, from a farmer perspective, the importance of it, we get an idea if our bull is able to breed the cows. Not only if its semen is good enough, but if he's structurally sound to get out there and cover 20 to 30 cows, things like that. You know, a couple of years ago we started doing the BSE tests here. And we like the opportunity to use the sale yards more than just for the feeder calf sale. Anyway we can get more people to use the yards and we thought this would be a good opportunity to, to kinda get more people using the yards and get something out of it to benefit themselves. Phil Durst: One of the things I like about this is it, it becomes a community of farmers working together in handling bulls and just moving them around. It takes more people, it takes some people to do that and to make sure that we're all safe and make sure that the bulls are, are kept, kept well too. So appreciate the community of farmers working together to be able to do something like this. Andy Kotterman: Yeah, We get, we get quite a few guys that, they get here early and get their bull or two tested and then they spend the rest of the day here helping out. It's a good time to get together and talk and share some ideas and see what a help for one guy and maybe another guy can pick something up from that. Phil Durst: Share a cup of coffee and donuts as well too. Andy Katterman: That's not bad either. Phil Durst: Thanks Andy for the opportunity to be here and to do this today. Andy Katterman: Thanks Phil. We're here to see if bulls are ready for breeding season because breeding season is coming, it's really important to have those bulls ready. Why might a bull not be ready for breeding season? Dr. B. Slavik: Okay, well, when we do our exam we're checking out multiple things, we're checking out physical abnormalities like eyes, feet, and leg problems. They could potentially have problems with with their testicles or with their penis. Phil Durst: So this is all part of the physical exam. Dr. Slavik:Yep. Phil Durst:The first thing that they got good locomotion, that they are able to get out there into the pasture and do the work physically. And then you're checking out the reproductive physiology, to make sure that things are at least functionally right there. Okay? Dr. Slavik: Yep, exactly. So then we're also looking at minimum standards for things like scrotal circumference. And then on the lab side, when we collect our sample. We look at minimum standards for motility and percent normal sperm. We call that the morphology or how the sperm look when we stain the sperm and look at them individually. Phil Durst: But okay, so I understand that you're, you're going to look at these things that you're going to collect this sample from the bull that you're going to check it out. But why? I mean, if, if we've used this bull for for last year or if maybe for last two years, why would that bull not be good to go? What would make that bull not good? Dr. Slavik: Sure. Well, many times the bulls are fine from year to year, but at some point in time they will start to break down either physically or sometimes it's obvious to the producers if they're losing weight, or if they're having trouble seeing. But, but many things are not obvious to producers. Especially like testicular degeneration is common among older bulls, can cause problems with the, with the morphology, how the sperm look, which would then potentially cause more open cows at the end of the season or, or longer calving window than what the producer is really looking for. Phil Durst: Okay? So there will be times when you examine a bull and you say because of physiology, because of sperm morphology or because of sperm motility, that that bull is not going to pass a BSE, a Breeding Soundness Exam. In fact, yesterday, we tested approximately 25 bulls and I think we didn't pass approximately four or five bulls, right? So in no case did the producer have a thought that these bulls might not pass. Dr. Slavik: Right, Yeah, Many times the producers are taken by surprise. Sometimes not, but that's why it's a good idea to do this far enough ahead of the breeding season so that producers can get a replacement bull in if need be. Phil Durst: So here we have another volunteer. Dr. Slavik: The first thing I do when I start my physical is to let them know that I'm here. Reach under the bar that we got him restrained with; palpating the spermatic cords, work my way down to the testicles. And then the epididymis. Everything checks out on this guy so far. Phil Durst: So the physical exam starts there. Dr. Slavik I've got my scrotal tape, taking the scrotal circumference. Phil Durst: The scrotal circumference is related to fertility in this case? Dr. Slovik: Yes. So it'll be correlated with how much testosterone he produces as well as sperm production, which will influence how many cows you can cover in a year. He's 37 centimeters, That's, that's excellent for a younger bull. Okay. The next part of the exam is as a rectal examination. I can palpate the Prostate, palpate the Prostate, and then move forward to the Seminal Vesicles. Then, over the brim of the pelvis, check the Inguinal Rings for evidence of enlargement or a hernia. Everything checks out on him. So now we're ready, now we're ready to insert the probe and collect him. Phil Durst: By the way, during BSE, safety is a primary concern for the people involved in it. So we are willing to sacrifice a BSE, we're willing to sacrifice equipment, but not allow people to be injured. And so safety is important. So we are collecting our sample with an electroejaculator. The stimulation starts off at a lower level and gradually builds up. Occasionally you'll get, especially in younger bulls, get a little bit of leg muscle stimulation, which is what you're seeing right there, it doesn't seem to bother the animal much. Sometimes you'll, you'll hear them vocalize. At this time I'm also checking for abnormalities with the penis and looking for changes in pre- ejaculatory fluid, transitioning over to full ejaculation Looks like we're still a little early. Now he is starting to ejaculate. Okay. So just place a drop on a warm slide. Thinner samples like this, I prefer to use a cover slip and look at the individual motility a little bit more. We do have a good sample. Phil Durst: So at this point we can release the bull because the sample is good. And now from this time on, it could be a matter of analyzing the sperm, make sure the sperm are normal. Hailey Sharrard: So I'm looking at the sperm. The morphology to see what they look like. So I'm looking at the heads to make sure they're the right shape and tails are straight and for any other abnormalities and then keeping count of what I'm seeing. (15 seconds of the clicking of the counting machine) Dr. Slavik? Right. So we did nine bulls for you today. The good news is that the majority, vast majority passed. So seven out of your nine total bulls that we looked at passed with flying colors. And again, the thresholds for passing is going through the physical. They're all 50% or higher on motility, they are all pretty much 80%, 85% normal or higher. So again, did excellent. The two that we need to focus on, which we've talked about chute side when the one was coming in, had a degenerated testicle. So that was, that was a good thing to find before we turn them out on cows. So he's an outright fail; he is not going to going to resolve. The other bull today that was of concern was bull number 60 and he looked good up until we get to the morphology portion of the exam, he was at 60% normal when we counted them a couple of times, and averaged it together. Some of the things that we were noticing was head abnormalities. And he had some proximally and distally coiled tails. So that's reflected with the two different categories of abnormalities. Given his age, that he is a younger bull and he was actually one of the older of the yearlings that we looked at today, but still, he still has a pretty good prognosis as far as eventually being acceptable in achieving that standard. Gotta gain ten points. But most of those defects are related to immaturity. So we can't guarantee him right now, but good prognosis for achieving it in a couple of months. So I put down here, we would recommend re-examination in July. Okay. Either that or just hold them over and check them again next year, next breeding season. Ryan Schaedig: Okay. All Right. Dr. Slavik: So that's that's all. Phil Durst: Well we are standing here at the Breeding Soundness Exam Clinic with Fred Strauer from the Tawas area, Fred you brought a couple of bulls here to be tested today. Why is that a value to you? What is it that you're looking to learn from this? Fred Strauer: Well, the biggest thing is to me is to know that the bulls are good enough to breed the cows. Yeah. I'm not going to put a bull out there and worry about my cows being bred. We like to calve in 45 days, tops. And so we want all the bulls in good condition and we want them Breeding Soundness Exam on all of them so that I'm pretty confident that my cows are going to get bred. That it is not the bull's fault if they're not bred. Phil Durst: Right. So a 45 day calving window is a pretty narrow window; Great window to shoot for, but obviously for that you need bulls that are working. Fred Strauer: Correct, Correct, Phil Durst: You've had bulls tested in the past that have not passed the test. Fred Strauer: That is correct. We've bought bulls that were from notable breeders that weren't semen tested and were no good. Phil Durst: So you can't just tell by looking at the bull or how the bull acts, you really have to have the bull examined. Fred Strauer: Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm 100% for getting them tested. I just see too many people with too many problems. My cows aren't bred - open cows and, you know, one bull isn't going to breed 50 cows. I don't care who you are. You can brag all you want, but 25 - 30 cows is pushing a bull pretty hard. Phil Durst: So as a cow-calf producer, your crop, is that calf crop, it has to start with a bull. Fred Strauer: That's correct. We want an even car load, as even as we can. So we want them calves born as quick, as close to each other as possible. I think that you're fool not to get it done. Phil Durst: All right. Great, Thanks Fred, appreciate it. Fred Strauer: Thanks. Breeding Soundness Exams are essential for beef cow-calf producers in order to manage their herd well, manage the reproduction of the herd, and the profitability of their herd. With MSU Extension, we're proud to offer this, not just this service, but this educational opportunity, for in working with these cattle producers, we have the opportunity to talk about bull management, about herd management, and about how they can become better cow-calf producers in a tough business. How they can expand that opportunity for their farms. We've tested here 29 bulls today from 10 different producers will look forward to them having a great breeding season coming up. Let's go Farmers! Keep working to make American Agriculture GREAT!