Have you ever heard a veterinarian or a seedstock producer caution against overworking a bull, especially a young bull? What do they mean? How can you overwork a bull? When someone advises you against overworking a bull, they are really telling you to not give him too many cows or heifers to breed.
Now, wait a minute! Allow me to set the record straight. Sex is NOT work for a bull! In fact, every bull worth his salt will go to sleep and wake up thinking about finding more cows to breed. There is nothing a bull would rather do than breed cows.
So why do the experts caution us against overworking a bull? The problem lies in the fact that most of today’s bulls are late maturing. They lack masculinity and fertility. Besides being sissy bulls, they lose condition and/or go lame during their first breeding season. Sex is not the problem. Nevertheless, when a bull has low sex drive and is losing condition or limping around, it becomes quite difficult for him to get very many cows settled.
I have heard many seedstock producers and veterinarians say a young virgin bull should not be turned out with more than 15 cows, and a mature bull should not be turned out with more than 25 to 30 cows. I’m not going to argue with them because I understand why they are making these recommendations. I will say, though, that it is high time for us to fix the problem instead of just treating the symptoms.
Seedstock producers need to get back to the basics of bull production. They need to stop selecting exclusively for higher and higher growth EPDs. They need to stop over-feeding and pampering their cattle. They need to produce environmentally-adapted cattle with fleshing ability that has been bred in – not fed in.
Pharo Cattle Company was established as a no-nonsense seedstock producer over 30 years ago because we saw the need to redefine and change the responsibilities of bull suppliers. From the very beginning, we believed seedstock producers should be tougher on their cattle than their customers are on theirs. Otherwise, we will never be able to help our customers make any herd improvements. This simple, common-sense philosophy quickly differentiated us from status quo seedstock producers.
Our bulls are not sissy bulls! They are moderate-sized, early-maturing bulls that look very masculine at a young age. They are bred and developed in such a way that they don’t fall apart during the breeding season. In fact, most of our bulls will gain weight while breeding cows. They go to work every morning with a big smile on their face – because breeding cows is NOT work for them.
Our recommended cow to bull ratio will vary from ranch to ranch, but it is much higher than the norm. We are not afraid to recommend turning our first-time, virgin bulls out with 25 to 30 cows. Our mature bulls have proven that they can cover 50+ cows. We know of several cases where our bulls have successfully exceeded these rates.
I don’t think anyone really knows how many cows a moderate-sized, easy-fleshing, early-maturing bull can settle. Many of our customers say they can get by with one-half the number of bulls they used to have. They also say our bulls will last much, much longer than the bulls they used to have. Many PCC bulls are still going strong at eight to twelve years of age.