Submitted to: Theriogenology
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/29/2005
Publication Date: 8/1/2005
Citation: Ellis, R.W., Rupp, G.P., Chenoweth, P.J., Cundiff, L.V., Lunstra, D.D. 2005. Fertility of yearling beef bulls during mating. Theriogenology. 64(3):657-678. Interpretive Summary: Yearling crossbred bulls were evaluated for reproductive fitness at the beginning and at the end of a summer breeding season to quantify changes that young bulls undergo during their first year of breeding experience. Groups of bulls (8-10/pasture/breeding period) were selected as having satisfactory breeding soundness at the beginning of the breeding season. At the end of the 63-day breeding season, mean weight loss per bull was 77 kg (170 lb); attrition loss was 22% due to lameness and reproductive injuries resulted in 40% of the bulls being classified as possessing unsatisfactory breeding soundness. Variation among bulls was greater than predicted with 32% of the bulls maintaining or increasing in their percentage of normal spermatozoa while percentage of normal spermatozoa decreased in the remaining bulls. These findings will aid producers and extension educators with recommendations on the use of yearling bulls in groups and impact the design of subsequent studies relating to reproductive soundness of yearling bulls.
Technical Abstract: Crossbred (Bos taurus) yearling beef bulls were assessed for breeding soundness and physical traits prior to multi-sire natural mating at pasture. Bulls (n = 60) were assigned to six groups of nine or 10 bulls and two bull-groups were rotated on 14-day intervals during a 63-day mating season in each breeding herd (n = 3) of 191–196 cows. The remaining bulls (n = 14) were maintained under similar environmental conditions without mating exposure. Bulls were observed during mating and assessed for breeding soundness and changes following mating. Bulls used for breeding (UFB) lost 77 kg of body weight and declined from body condition scores of 6 to 4.5, whereas bulls not used for breeding (NUB) maintained body condition scores of 6 and gained 27 kg. The UFB bulls incurred a 75% total injury rate with 63% incidence of lameness and 12% incidence of reproductive injuries, resulting in a 22% attrition rate. Only 45% were physically sound at the end of mating. Scrotal circumference declined in UFB bulls (-4.58%) and increased in NUB bulls (2.49%). From the 98% BSE-satisfactory rate (UFB) prior to breeding, only 61% were BSE-satisfactory post-breeding. The NUB bulls declined from 57 to 36% satisfactory. The BSE classification was influenced by significant increases in abnormal spermatozoa (primary and secondary), which was significantly associated with injuries incurred during mating. Group and breed differences in injury rates and BSE-status following mating were evident. Environmental conditions and mating activity influenced bull seminal quality and physical condition. Pregnancy rates in all three breeding herds (91–96%) were similar, with insignificant differences between bull-groups; the effects of physical and reproductive changes on individual bull fertility were immeasurable.