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How to work a bull with heifers

 
matt sorrells
Posts: 126
Location: Canton, NC
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Alrighty, I've got another noob question. I've got 2 700 lb heifers now that were born in october, and one 200 lb heifer that is 9 weeks old. I know we want a bull at some point in the future (hereford), so how to plan for it. I know I dont want to buy one at several thousand dollars when I can grow one. We'd like to raise a bull from a weanling so we can feed it a few times and wean it so it will be very friendly toward us.

The main question is this - how do you raise a bull in the herd and not breed the heifers to early? I had someone tell me that a young bull if bred too early will produce calving problems with is first attempts - I have no clue about this. I cant understand why that would be true - I see that if a heifer is bred too early that she'd have calving problems and perhaps be stunted from it. I want to run them together for more cow pressure per paddock, but I want to avoid problems associated with it, or find out ya'lls experiences.

My uncle says that I'd be better off to take my cows to someone with a bull and leave them with 'em for 2 months, but I do not want that.

Ideas? Suggestions? Opposing viewpoints?

Thanks



ps - we took that one steer we had ("Tenderlion") to the butcher and boy is he tender! Really good meat.
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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A young bull will not be as "reliable" and may be shy around bigger cows, but can have pretty good results from 18 months or so. For a heifer, some will come in heat too young and it will be bad for the cow and the baby in terms of future growth. What I try to do is separate the heifers between weaning age (8-9 months) and 12 months or so - of course season plays into this too as I try to avoid all calving in winter.
If you find 1-2 small farms with different target calving seasons, you can easily rotate the bull around and share the cost - or if you raise it, you can lease it out to off-season breeders. Also, some AI operations like to bring in a backup bull a month later.

One piece of advice: prep a tasty snack for him every time he's in the trailer and it will become far easier to move him!
 
matt sorrells
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Location: Canton, NC
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I cannot disagree with what you are saying, but a more natural way than separating them....

In nature, the young bison are not separated by sex until a certain age - they run together. What keeps them from breeding?

Also, if heifers come into season every month or so, how do we get them in the natural "calf in spring" rhythm?
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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I'm not sure about bison compared to domestic cattle that have been selected for birthing traits.

I can definitely say that with most things we demand a much higher standard than nature provides: if not paying attention to this point causes 5% birthing death and 5% stunted growth, it's a big hit for my operation. Nature is quite fine with these losses! Nature is often fine if 1 in 1000 seeds grows, but my demand is far higher, so I help things along by storing my dried seeds through the winter instead of leaving them to rot on the ground.

I think we're all better working with nature, but not depending on nature alone...
 
Adam Klaus
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few thoughts I have here-

You definitely want to separate your fertile bull from young heiffers or you will have them bred too early, and will basically ruin their potential. The demands of pregnancy on a physically immature animal will permanently stunt their physical potential. The only way to prevent early pregnancy is physical separation. Cattle are not 'natural' animals, they are a human creation, and require our care and stewardship. Comparing cows to bison is like comparing housecats to tigers. Only similar on the surface.

I do not recommend raising your bulls to be 'friendly' to people. The friendly bull is far more dangerous in the end. I want my bulls to be uncomfortable with people, and above all else, to know that people are not anything they want to be close to. It is far too risky to have a friendly bull decide one day that he wants to 'play', and get killed. Keep bulls at a distance, and always remember that they are lethal.

Raising a homegrown bull is a good idea if you have sufficiently quality genetics at your disposal. I would say that with good herd genetics, maybe 15-20 percent of male offspring would make acceptable breeding bulls. In a less than excellent herd, that number would be far lower. The need to select supreme individuals for herd bulls is critical. This is why large herds work well, as there are many, many bulls to choose from.

Keeping a bull is a serious undertaking. They are powerful and potentially deadly. I love keeping a bull in my herd, but I treat him with great caution and respect at all times. I have been through three bulls in the last eight years in my dairy herd, and just selected our next breeding bull from this year's calves. I wrote a bit about the selection process on my facebook page if you are curious.

good luck!
 
Cj Sloane
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Adam Klaus wrote:
You definitely want to separate your fertile bull from young heiffers or you will have them bred too early, and will basically ruin their potential. The demands of pregnancy on a physically immature animal will permanently stunt their physical potential. The only way to prevent early pregnancy is physical separation.


I know this is true but it is not my experience [yet].

I generally have 4 to 5 head - mini belted galloways. The current line up is a 3 year old bull, 5 year old cow, 1 & 2 year old heifers. Whenever a bull tries to mount a heifer who isn't ready she sits down and the bull seems to get the message. Not something I can recommend really, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

I have also heard that you can not keep more than 1 bull in a paddock or they will kill each other. This is not my experience either. I've had up to 3 grown bulls together (w/ cows & heifers too) and it was fine. Occasional jockeying for position via head to head pushing but that's it.
 
Diogenese simpson
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As Adam says be extremely carefull around a bull especialy when they are in with the cows to breed them , I have seen them destroy a welded pipe coral to get at a cow in heat .
 
Gabe New
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Matt, although I totally understand your desire, I second what the others have said. One other thing to consider is that the bull will eat what a cow could be eating. For the very small operator, it's best to AI or borrow.
 
richard valley
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Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
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Greetings, I've seen good results raising a bull calf by hand. If you have the time.

Richard
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richard valley
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Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
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This fellow, a young Jersey bull pulls a cart for my daughter. He loves hugs and kisses. He's very good with the family, we raised him with constant handling.

Richard
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Adam Klaus
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My understanding is that there are great dangers associated with raising bulls to be gentle, like pets. They can be super docile when young, but all it takes is one moment where their testosterone overcomes their upbringing, and there is a potentially fatal situation. Think nature vs nurture. All it takes is one switch for there to be a huge accident.

My kids are not allowed to ever approach or pet the bulls. I don't wait for the bull to show any sign of aggression. The kids pet and play with the heifers from birth to death. But bulls are just too dangerous. From my reading of old farm books, way too many farmers were accidentally killed by bulls for me to ever allow my kids to be around such a potentially dangerous animal.

This isn't a judgement of any individual bull, or any individual farmer. This is just a risk management decision.
 
matt sorrells
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Location: Canton, NC
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i ended up learning more and more and from my uncles advice and help, he bought a bull at around 550 to 600 lbs and put it in with the now 800 or 900 lb heifers and the little heifer is probably 350 or 400 lbs. According to him, the little heifer wont "bull" or stand for breeding. We have already witnessed the larger heifers breeding with the bull, so hopefully this will work out well. We will likely borrow a bull from someone or do as my uncle suggested and just buy a bull at the stockyard and "use" him for a few months and then take him back. We have a GREAT stockyard here in Canton, NC just 5 miles or so down the road.

When we are done with the bull (breeding and fattening him up), my uncle will cut him and take him to the stockyard. It all worked out.
 
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