Hey everyone, we are in a bull dilemma to get our Dexter milk cow bred. She is open right now, and we had to dry her off because we couldn’t get someone to milk her when we went on a trip for a family wedding.
BLUF: Should we get a 4-year-old proven, great looking bull (with a bull attitude) or should we stick with the bull yearling we already have and hope he is capable of doing the job?
Is it an issue if you bring a bull from a herd of 40 cows into a herd of 2 cows? I am worried that since he won’t have as many cows to breed that he might be more aggressive and perhaps injure one of our cows.
Here are the details:
We purchased a Dexter bull yearling (about 1.5 years old), hoping he would be able to do the job. He arrived in much poorer condition than we would have liked, but has already made drastic improvements in the month we have had him. He is very calm (for a bull) and is handled enough so you can give him a rub down. He hasn’t shown any interest in the cow at all, it could be that he is just adjusting to our herd, and maybe he needs more time but I am worried he went sterile during his time of not being fed properly (the farmer we got him from was down all summer from a medical emergency and the animals suffered because of that). One option is we can try to fatten him up and hope that he warms up to our homestead and gets his act together. Thoughts?
The alternative is we could get a different Dexter bull, who is 4 years old and very capable of getting her bred. We went to look at him today and is a beautiful animal in every way, but is a little harder to work with. He hasn’t shown any aggression to humans, but the owner said he does often shake his head at you when you show up, and you just have to shoo him away and carry a stick with you to keep him in his place. I know this is a “typical” bull, but my wife is a little nervous, especially since we have our first child on the way. He is also coming from a much bigger herd, where he has a lot of cows to breed. Is it an issue when a bull is used to breeding 40 cows and is put in a new herd with only 2 cows?
I’m curious what you would do in our situation. Thanks for your input!
When you say get, do you mean borrow? I can't see why you would want a bull if you only have two cows, AI would seem more suitable. If it is borrow, could you take your cow to the bull rather than have a possibly dangerous animal around your (I presume) pregnant wife? The cow man in this family thinks the 4 year old may become very possessive of the cows and you could have issues getting close to them again.
Cows are only in estrus for 2-3 days in a 21 day cycle. A bull will be able to tell which days she is receptive based on smell. Your young bull might not be showing any interest because your cow is not interested in him at the moment. Based on the picture where he looks to be in very poor condition, he may not have the energy to do the job, but that is pretty unusual. You could get a vet to semen test your young bull, they could tell you definitively if he is worth keeping. If you do go the route of using the 4 year old bull, it might be easier to bring your cows to the bull than the bull to you.
If Leora hadn't beaten me to the punch I'd have suggested bringing your cow to the bull if renting him isn't feasible.
Other option is to rent a non-dexter bull this year and just plan to slaughter that calf once it reaches a size you like (even if much younger than you'd normally slaughter). Meantime either get the bull you have tested for fertility, or just see if by next year he is mature enough to do the job. If he never gets interested, or tests sterile, slaughter him and start shopping for another suitable bull.
I apologize for being late to the discussion. For some reason permies stopped sending me email notifications of new posts. Rule number one, never trust any bull horned or polled. Never turn your back on one. Always have a means of escape if in a pasture with a bull and learn to recognize the display signs of bull threat/aggression.
Now on to the problem. You have two cows and need to get them bred. Your current young bull is in extremely poor condition. If you intend to keep him, I would consult a vet to determine what’s wrong with him. I would not breed him until he is evaluated and fertility tested. Unless he had an outstanding pedigree, I would question whether or not to spend a lot of money on him to determine what’s wrong. There are much better bulls available.
That leaves you with two other choices, A.I. or access to another bull. If going the A.I. route, use a trained professional. You have two cows, when one of them comes into heat, the other will mount the one in heat. Apply K-mar heat detector patches to the tail head of each cow. The heat detector patch has a red dye in it. When a cow is mounted, the dye capsule breaks and turns the patch red indicating the mounted cow is in heat. When you see this, notify your A.I. professional you have one ready to breed. Be sure and have the semen lined up ahead of time along with arrangements with a trained AI technician. This process requires you to check your two cows in the morning after sunrise and the evening before sunset.
Second choice is natural service with a bull. Rather than buy another bull and incur the expense of feeding him year around for two cows, I would make arrangements with a Dexter breeder in the area to take your two cows to their place and leave them for 60 days. If your cows are in good body condition, have had their calves weaned for a while and cycling monthly, 60 days is plenty of time for a good bull to get them bred. I would offer to pay for any feed needed for your cows and a stud fee for the use of the bull. If your cows are skinny like the young bull you have, you will have to feed them up before taking them for breeding.
I'm following Ron around adding my 2 cents to his dollar...
I have a Bull because I am too lazy to deal with AI, and also because I enjoy seeing a herd with a complete "family dynamic." There's some hope that the bull would defend the herd, but thus far he shows no interest in defending the herd against anything except another bull.
My experience with a bull is that for my purposes, horns are not helpful. I interact with the cows a lot, and even accidental contact with the horns could be a problem - and we have almost no cattle-predator pressure. Second, demeanor is critical - the bull is a big, powerful creature who can be flooded with testosterone. Yes, you want a virile beast with good genes but you also want one who doesn't see you as a threat. My bull was selected to be human-friendly and was bought while just a weanling - and he's amazing - everyone loves him. Its hard to imagine needing to follow Ron's rule #1 - and we certainly don't. Our only rule is to not touch him on the forehead between the eyes.
The OP is well past the time to make a decision, but with an either/or situation I'd stick with the young polled fellow and give him a chance to recover - he'll become a bull in your system and be more tractable moving forward.
We did end up keeping the small bull and are fattening him up. Especially with the need for sustainability right now, we feel the cost of the bull is worth keeping him around.
As an update, we ran another pregnancy test and the cow is pregnant! We had been using a urine test, which was giving a bad result. Instead I ordered a blood pregnancy test and drew blood myself and mailed it to a lab, with much more accurate results.
Letting your guard down around any bull regardless of how gentle he may seem is a dangerous path to go down. I recently read a story from a woman who raises Scottish highland cattle. She went out to the pasture one day to check on a cow that had calved. She wanted some pics of the calf. The herd bull which she had raised from a calf was acting strange that day. Even from a distance he was pawing the ground and bellowing in a low tone. She was lulled into a false sense of security because she had raised him and he was always gentle. She had her back to him while taking pics of the calf. She didn’t hear him come up behind her and he attacked. Before she knew it, he had her on the ground mauling her. Her only thought was to lay still and play dead. When it was over, she spent weeks in the hospital with neck and internal injuries. Horned, dehorned or polled don’t ever assume a gentle bull will always be gentle. Another recent story involved a Holstein bull that was hand raised from a calf. He was so gentle, grade school classes visiting the farm regularly petted him. One day he got out of his pen. The owner was trying to put him back in his pen and the gentle bull attacked him. No horns on this bull yet he inflicted several broken bones on the man. The only way the man escaped was by rolling under a nearby vehicle and still the bull stayed by the vehicle for a period of time waiting for him to come out before giving up and walking away.
I have to tip my hat to Ron - I'm certain he's got more experience than I! I don't mean to discount the potential danger of a bull.
On the other hand, aggressive bulls - outside of the Professional Bull Riding arena - are a problem.. Why not fix the problem? The breeder I purchased from has been on a long program to breed small, docile bulls with good genetic characteristics. He told me his goal is to have a bull that he can pull off a cow. I don't want to try that myself! However, the larger point is that selecting a bull for demeanor has real benefits and it might be possible to banish the stories of running from bulls to the "when I was a kid we had to ..." category. There is a bit of smug "better living through science" which may be contrary to natural processes and "nature's wisdom" and we should remain open to possibilities good and bad - but the correlation of energetic & aggressive with virility & growth seems to be spurious.
To be clear, my tame/domesticated/chill bull isn't a golden retriever puppy! Every time I enter the herd I check in with him first, both to make sure we don't suddenly have signs of aggression (never have) and pay respects and put him at ease. That works for me in my herd. When I visit another herd, I follow the owner's lead instead of going up to the big boy and putting my arms his neck!
Hello from Texas,
In response to your questions about the Dexter Bull may I ask the question about both Dexter Bulls A1 and A2 beta-casein genes. Have they been tested? This would be a good place to start in deciding if you would like the A-2 gene for milk. Also, I did not see other tests such as did you want to test for Chondrodysplasia or Pulmonary hypoplasia with anasarca (PHA). It may sound like a lot of work but it's answers can better help you with your decision. If I can help you with the tests feel free to contact me,
Fitz's Golden Dexters
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