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Looking after your new bull

The bull selling season is well underway and there has been lots of talk surrounding the prices being paid - something that's not overly surprising given the strength of the cattle market at present. With record prices being set I'm sure that some producers are a bit nervous about their new genetic investment and are hoping that there won't be any issues in the next couple of months.

Below are some important things that you can do reduce the chance of problems occurring when the new boys arrive home.


Unload the new bulls into the cattle yards along with some quiet steers or cows for company – don't unload them straight into the paddock. Bulls from different properties should be kept separate. Provide hay and water and leave them for a couple of days to settle down and get used to their new environment.

If you haven't done already, check with the vendor to see what health treatments and vaccinations have already been administered, including timing. Timing is critical with vaccinations as you may need to give bulls a booster shot before joining. Recommended treatments include:

  • 7-in-1 vaccine: this vaccine protects bulls against the 5 common clostridial diseases as well as Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is an important reproduction disease which can result in reduced fertility and "abortion storms" in herds. An annual booster shot is required once the primary course has been given.
  • Vibriosis vaccine: a sexually transmitted disease, vibriosis can cause infertility and abortions in a herd. Because bulls are the carrier of this disease, the upside is that you only need to treat your bulls to protect the whole herd. Vaccination involves an initial primary course of two injections (4-6 weeks apart), with the second dose given 2-4 weeks prior to joining. An annual booster prior to joining will provide ongoing protection.
  • Worms and lice: bulls should be treated to prevent introducing worms and lice onto your property.

It is also worth checking with the vendor if bulls have been DNA tested (negative) for Pestivirus. Further, with the cost of bulls this year insurance is certainly worth considering. Even if all the presale examinations and checks are done, problems can still happen. Insurance companies generally cover death and/or loss of use due accidents or disease. Like any insurance, the key is to read the fine print and fully understand exactly what's covered.


Newly purchased young bulls shouldn't be placed with older, more experienced bulls when using multiple sire joinings. The older bulls will spend most of their time keeping the new recruits away from the cows and knock them around. Instead, run young bulls with bulls of similar age, or use single sire mating.

It is critical that all bulls are monitored during joining, especially during the first three weeks. If there is a problem it is better to find out early and do something about it than find out at preg testing, especially with the way cattle prices are at present! When monitoring, be on the lookout for any lameness, penis injuries and general serving issues.

This monitoring is particularly important for young bulls in their first joining. It is recommended that you stand on the right hand side when inspecting for any penis issues or injuries. If injuries are suspected the best thing to do is get the bull into the yards and get a closer look. A damaged prepuce is the most common penis injury in young bulls and is generally overcome by giving the animal complete sexual rest.

Remember to record cow groups and bulls used. This information becomes critical if there are any issues identified at preg testing.

Further information: 

Matthew Lieschke
Senior Land Services Officer – Livestock
02 4824 1913