Date of this Version
Crossbred (Bos taurus) yearling beef bulls were assessed for breeding soundness and physical traits prior to multi-sire natural mating at pasture. Bulls (n = 60) were assigned to six groups of nine or 10 bulls and two bull-groups were rotated on 14-day intervals during a 63-day mating season in each breeding herd (n = 3) of 191–196 cows. The remaining bulls (n = 14) were maintained under similar environmental conditions without mating exposure. Bulls were observed during mating and assessed for breeding soundness and changes following mating. Bulls used for breeding (UFB) lost 77 kg of body weight and declined from body condition scores of 6 to 4.5, whereas bulls not used for breeding (NUB) maintained body condition scores of 6 and gained 27 kg. The UFB bulls incurred a 75% total injury rate with 63% incidence of lameness and 12% incidence of reproductive injuries, resulting in a 22% attrition rate. Only 45% were physically sound at the end of mating. Scrotal circumference declined in UFB bulls (-4.58%) and increased in NUB bulls (2.49%). From the 98% BSE-satisfactory rate (UFB) prior to breeding, only 61% were BSE-satisfactory post-breeding. The NUB bulls declined from 57 to 36% satisfactory. The BSE classification was influenced by significant increases in abnormal spermatozoa (primary and secondary), which was significantly associated with injuries incurred during mating. Group and breed differences in injury rates and BSE-status following mating were evident. Environmental conditions and mating activity influenced bull seminal quality and physical condition. Pregnancy rates in all three breeding herds (91–96%) were similar, with insignificant differences between bull-groups; the effects of physical and reproductive changes on individual bull fertility were immeasurable.