Boy, has it ever been a whirlwind week. On Tuesday all of our preparations came together as we received 85 bulls into the test program here in Middle Tennessee. 85 rowdy, 9-month-old bulls settling in with their new pen mates. It was a busy morning, but everyone was processed and penned before noon!

So what exactly makes up a day in the bull barn? It’s all a matter of providing some TLC, with a watchful eye, and some patience to provide these bulls with enough feed, water, and a comfortable environment to perform and their peak for 84 days. We must be watchful for any health problems (occasional respiratory or bloat), sore feet (inflammation, rocks), or injuries (playful bulls can get rough).

Receiving the bulls becomes quite the task.

  • There’s someone to record the weight. – Performance in weight gain is recorded in the test. We measure average daily gains over the entire test, and will later record weight on days 28, 56, and at the end of the test.
  • Next they receive a pen tag for individual identification. – Record keeping because bulls don’t exactly tell us their names.
  • The veterinarians administered vaccinations – Prevents diseases common to the area, also includes a dewormer to rid of internal parasites. We also looked for warts and any physical abnormalities.
  • Scrotal circumference was measured – This is correlated with fertility in bulls. Larger testicles produce more sperm and are correlated with earlier puberty in the bull’s progeny.
  • Temperatures and health of the bulls recorded – Identifies any bulls coming in with signs of illness.

The bulls were turned into stalls with fresh straw bedding, plenty of hay, and a touch of grain. Over the next several weeks, we will slowly increase the amount of feed (a mixture of grains, grain by-products, and plant proteins) each bull receives until they reach maximum intake (~30-40 pounds per day + free-choice hay).

Each week we will bed stalls with fresh straw, clean out their water tanks, and clean out manure around the stalls. The bulls have it pretty nice if you ask me. Not everyone has a servant to deliver your food, clean up after you, make your bed, clean your house, and ask each day how you’re doing.

All of this work is to make sure cattle ranchers across the state have the opportunity to learn more about their cattle’s genetic potential and invest in quality bulls for their breeding programs.

What interaction have you had with bull development programs in your area?