Sometimes you have to let the bull go
September and our bull is gone. He did not have a name. He was the only one in the field. Pretty easy to identify. Distinct physical features; cauliflower ears, heavily muscled neck, hunched shoulders and such, made him easy to tell apart from the cows. Never gave him a numbered ear tag either. He was just the Bull and now he is gone. Wish could say the same about all this pre-election bull. Sometimes envy the British their six weeks of campaigning, then it is over and everybody has to get along.
We use to have acres of bulls. They stayed over in fall, winter and early spring in a pasture down the back lane, a swampier part of the ranch, away from the cows. Still call that particular field the bull pasture even though boarder cows graze in there now. This swampy field offered good enough grass for the bulls and enough space when feeding to lay out a long line of bales so they wouldn’t fight over the hay. With one bull needed to cover 20-25 cows we kept quite a few to breed the over 300 cows and replacement heifers we use to run.
Now I’m down to one bull and actually he is gone. Took him to the Fallon livestock auction. His job was done. He had been with the cows all summer. Waited until end of summer to sell him to be sure he put on a little cover before the sale. Should not have worried. Looking at the check we received from the auction yard he managed to breed all our cows, a few extra and put on a bit of healthy weight too.
Mr. Bull went to auction because our little group of cows are aging, requiring us to keep some replacement heifers. And we don’t want Mr. Bull breeding his own daughters. Bad genetics show up when you do that.
Since we won’t be needing a bull until next May’s breeding season no need to keep over a ton of constant eating machine through fall and winter. Feeding hay and supplements can be expensive as well as trying to keep the bull away from young heifers. Bulls seem to take pride in walking through any wire fence a man can build if a loving cow is on the other side.
Bulls don’t like being alone. They go where they can find company. You can keep beef bulls together.
They might fight a bit to figure out who’s boss, but then respectfully keep their distances, but not too far. They are herd animals after all. And a bunch of bulls in a field with no cows to bother mostly laze about eating, scratching and sunning themselves.
If you have a lot of time and money (rare in the cattle business) and not too many cows you can skip the bull and try artificial insemination. Did that a few years back when we only had five heifers. AI required a lot of watching, waiting, and coordinating. Given the choice between AI or getting extra cows to justify the expensive of having a bull we opted for more cows.
So with fall coming on, irrigation over in a few weeks, will sit down soon and read bull sales catalogs to plan next year’s purchase. It will certainly be more interesting and unfortunately more factual reading than the political bull going around the rest of this fall.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.