From Our Farm to Your Table

How to control a Bull

Tue, 2014-12-09 12:25 -- Carole Soule

The bull was headed at full speed toward me. At the last minute, McGregor, the bull, dodged left, tucked his front legs and with a graceful leap jumped uphill clearing a three

foot electric fence with the grace of a Thoroughbred horse. After jumping two more fences and charging though a wire gate, he finally ended up in the correct field. McGregor is a Scottish Highlander bull that we bought as a 3 year old to breed our cows. Our other two bulls were off-farm servicing other cattle and we thought it might help our herd genetics to bring in a new bull for breeding.

 

It is important in a breeding program to swap out your bull periodically. While you can breed a cow her whole life, the bull needs to change. It is not a good idea to have a bull breed his progeny and even worse to let a bull breed his mother. So we pay close attention to the bulls we have on the farm.

The problem is that all of our farm born and raised bulls are gentle and easy to handle. We halter break them as babies and teach them to respect us when they are youngsters. This way, when they get big and scary looking, they still respect us and follow directions. They know how to get on and off a stock trailer. They don't charge over fences. These big boys are fearless but respectful. So it is very hard when we have to send them for processing at five or six years old. By then their female off-spring are ready for breeding and it's time to bring in a new bull. Besides it takes a lot of hay to feed a 1,500 lb fully grown bull.

 

We like to expose our cows to a bull in June and July. The calves are born 9 months later, typically in March and April.

 

Two days after the first episode McGregor jumped another fence in his quest to escape the skidsteer Bruce was using to deliver hay. Bruce wanted to get out the ATV and “drive” McGregor back to the correct pasture. Instead I tried a different method.

 

Bulls have two very strong desires. They love to eat and they love the girls. McGregor was very interested in a cow called Laverne. Laverne is very easy to handle so I led her, with McGregor trailing behind, to the field he was supposed to be in.

 

 

Later I used alfalfa pellets to get McGregor in the holding pen. Each time he calmly and quietly did exactly what I wanted. I convinced him to do the right thing, rather than trying to force him. It seems that convincing is the best method of persuasion. Works for bulls and, by the way, my husband too.

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