Care of Your Stud Bull

Your stud bull is an expensive and critical investment. His failure can be likened to crop failure. Pay attention to his needs and ensure he is fertile.


Your stud bull determines the genetic direction and improvement of your cow herd. It is therefore important that you have a clear vision of what you want your cow herd to do for you, what body type you want (tall and lanky, short or midway between), what you wish to sell (heavy weaners for sale of weaners, fast maturing types for feedlots or slower growing types for veld rearing), and what and how you supplementary feed your herd in winter (crop residues, veld, browse, feedlots, vleis etc) and even what colour and type of coat you want. These are factors which help you select a breed and your bull breeder.

Tick Control

Your bull has probably been dipped weekly in summer and every two weeks for the three coldest months in winter. He may have been kept totally tick-free and is consequently susceptible to tick-borne diseases such as Heartwater, Redwater, Theileriosis and Gall Sickness.

It is imperative you check with the seller to determine the bull’s dipping history so his tick-free status can be maintained or he could become infected by a tick-borne disease on his new farm. Ensure you thoroughly agitate your dip-wash by dipping 25 head then returning them to be re-dipped in the now agitated wash or ensure that he is hand sprayed correctly.

During periods of fly worry, a synthetic pyrethroid based pour-on can be used. Apply whilst the bull’s coat is dry. Since most pour-ons are oil-based and rain-fast, they will survive one or two immersions in the dip-wash, depending on your initial application dose. If you wish to allow your bull to be tick infested and become immune to tick-borne diseases, consult your veterinary surgeon for advice on tick-borne disease vaccines or controlled exposure programmes.

Worm Control

If your bull has access to open natural water (vleis, rivers) or snail infested troughs, it is advisable to combine a liver-fluke remedy with your routine roundworm treatment. Do a faecal egg count on fresh faeces to check on worm status or strategically dose in September/October (i.e. before the bulling season).


Your bull should receive the following vaccinations:

Quarter evil



Lumpy Skin Disease.

Consider Rift Valley Fever and Three Day Gall Sickness if there is a risk.

Vibrio vaccine should be given annually before the bulling season.

It is recommended that you vaccinate against diseases prevalent in your area. Consult your veterinary surgeon for advice.


Your bull will require access to a salt and phosphate lick in summer and a kilogram or two of high protein concentrate to supplement veld grazing in winter to ensure that he enters the breeding season in good body condition.


To remain functionally efficient, ie to get around, to find and successfully serve your cows year after year, it is important you observe your bulls, particularly in the breeding season. Watch for any painful eye conditions, lameness, rapid weight loss or injury, particularly to the sheath, testes and penis. Observe him successfully mounting, penetrating and ejaculating. Train stockmen to watch and check that bulls are performing satisfactorily. Many stud bulls prematurely break down (are no longer functionally efficient) due to inadequate care.

It is recommended that all working bulls be examined by your veterinary surgeon for breeding soundness six to eight weeks before the breeding season. It is always a good idea to buy bulls that have been checked for breeding soundness prior to purchase.

Content shared by kind permission of Dr Douglas Bruce.

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