Managing Yearling Bulls

Many factors will affect the longevity and usefulness of the bulls you use. Bringing home that fresh yearling bull is always exciting. You have invested time and money in making the purchase. Evaluating the bulls available and carefully selecting one that will improve your herd's genetics can be challenging. Seeing him fade to a shadow by the end of the breeding season soon puts a few questions in your mind regarding your investment choice. We need to remember that yearling bulls have just reached adolescence and still have a lot of growth and development ahead of them. They do require higher management than mature bulls.

Yearling bulls will lose weight during their first breeding season, but minimizing this loss will extend a bull's usefulness and productivity. Minimizing the loss starts as soon as you bring him home. They need to be fed to continue gaining 2.0-2.5 lb./day, until they are turned out with the cows. Remember yearling bulls need to be fit not fat. Ample opportunity for exercise is required for muscle tone.

Once you do turn him out you need to be sure he is not overworked. A good rule of thumb is to turn him out with 1 cow for every month of age. Thus, a 15 month old bull can be turned out with 15 cows. Remember he needs to get the cows inseminated but he also needs to learn to be a bull. Observe him regularly to ensure he knows to go from one cow to another and to make sure he doesn't get injured.

Length of season is also important. Leaving him out all summer will just run more pounds off him, so leave him out for no more than 45-60 days. If this isn't long enough for your herd, use artificial insemination (AI) to maintain the length of your breeding season and to shorten the breeding period for the yearling bull.

When you do bring him in, he needs to gain not just the weight he lost during breeding season, but also enough weight that he will be 75% of his mature weight by the time he reaches his second birthday. If a bull's potential mature weight is 2000 lbs., he should weigh at least 1500 lbs. at 2 years of age. Therefore, that 1250 lb. yearling bull at turnout who lost 200 lbs. during his first breeding season would have to gain 2.0 lbs. per day during the nine months before his second birthday.

Remember yearling bulls can be used effectively if they are critically selected, properly developed and carefully managed. Protect your investment and increase the longevity of the bulls in your herd with a little timely management.

Herd of cattle on pasture


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