The simple economics of breeding soundness exams for bulls

Conducting breeding soundness exams on bulls is cost effective every year. It will be critical to check fertility before the 2014 breeding season after the severe winter.

Annually, about 20-25 percent of bulls do not pass breeding soundness exams. After the harsh temperatures and wind chills experienced this past winter, many anticipate that number to increase do to frost bit testicles and poor body condition. Under normal circumstances conducting breeding soundness exams on bulls is cost effective. Following this severely cold winter, the decision is going to be more critical as the percent of bulls that do not pass is expected to increase.

Over the past 10 years, beef cow production costs and feeder calf prices have risen to historically high levels. Using infertile bulls will result in cows not becoming pregnant during the breeding season, fewer calves to sell and more cows being fed without offsetting income. Fertility testing bulls can be conducted for less than $5 per cow. That’s really cheap compared to the costs associated with open cows.

Many bulls have already been fertility tested this spring for breeding. Near normal fail/pass rates have been observed so far this spring. Many of the bulls that failed breeding soundness exams were going to be relied upon to service cows. In some instances bulls failed because they were not fully mature or from cold stress. Many of these bulls may pass in a month or two. Producers should plan to retest these bulls rather than assuming they will be sound breeders later this summer.

Michigan State University Extension recommends fertility testing bulls every year before breeding season. For more information regarding breeding soundness exams for bulls, contact me at or 906-884-4386. 

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