General health will affect fertility of bulls, says vet

Paul Redmond from Duntahane Veterinary Clinic, Fermoy, says that checking up on the healths of your bulls needs to be a top priority.

One evening towards the end of last July, a client of ours rang with a note of concern in his voice.

The previous November he had been thrilled at the sale of his 10-month-old champion simmental bull. Now, at the end of July, the purchaser contacted him proclaiming the bull to be infertile.

My client had recovered the bull and was very disappointed with the condition of the animal. Looking for advice and maybe a ray of hope he wanted to know what he should do. Would he just bite the bullet and send the bull off to the factory?

After a bit of questioning, it transpired the young bull had been placed with 30 cows in the middle of May.

Being concerned by the middle of July, the new owner, on scanning his cows, found none of them to be in-calf. He then got a local technician to semen sample the bull. The semen sample proved to be a disaster with absolutely no live sperm found.

Having thought about it briefly I put an idea to my client. There was a chance the bull had incurred some infection (suffered a chill or maybe was lame) resulting in him running a fever towards the end of April or start of May.

This would fever would certainly mean that all the sperm present in his body at the time would die. If that was the case then it would take him at least 10 weeks to make new sperm that would be ready for breeding again. This would mean that for the whole of the time that the bull was with the cows he was only firing blanks.

We decided to give the bull another couple of weeks before we carried out a bull- breeding soundness examination on him. When I arrived to carry out the examination I found a bull that seemed to be in good enough condition.

Checking his teeth, eyes, heart and lungs I found his basic requirements to be in order. We check his teeth to make sure that the bull can eat properly as this would affect his ability to keep in peak condition and in this case, if they had been wrong, would explain the loss of condition seen by my client.

We check the eyes because a bull needs to see what is happening with the cows at the far side of the field.

We check his heart because obviously he needs to have this in perfect order if he is to perform properly. All in working order so on to the genitals. His scrotum, testicles, prepuce and penis showed no abnormalities with a good testicular size.

The internal genitalia, on rectal examination, showed no abnormalities. So on to the collection of a semen sample and its subsequent examination. The sample showed creamy consistency with a gross motility of 5/5 with a progressive motility of almost 100%.

Having made a slide and stained it I left a client in good form to examine the slide under microscope later that evening once it had dried properly. I was delighted to find 85% normal sperm on the slide.

This meant my hypothesis had been correct and not alone was I happy with this but my client was extremely happy.

At his request I contacted the buyer and relayed the whole scenario to him.

He seemed a pleasant sort of guy and he accepted my theory to the point that he was willing to take the bull back again from my client.

There is a moral to every story and the one here is that all may not be what it first appears to be. It pays to think out the possibilities and then to follow through with a full investigation.

Paul Redmond, Duntahane Veterinary Clinic, Fermoy, Co Cork; member practice of Prime Health Vets.


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