A new age arrives in breeding soundness evaluations

Bulls have an easier time of it with the new generation of semen collectors. | File photo

This article should have some good information for everyone: those thinking of evaluating for the first time, the seasoned veterinarian who has been doing it for many years for his clients and the new graduate veterinarian just getting into the process.

Pulling out infertile bulls and finding bulls with other problems is now common practice and can be a big part of bovine practitioners’ duties.

A breeding soundness examination is a great management tool and one that virtually no one does without anymore when buying a breeding bull. You should have a close examination of the form before you buy your next breeding bull.

Technology over the years has made stimulating and collecting from the bull less obtrusive.

Lane Manufacturing in Colorado is one company that has been manufacturing and marketing ejaculators, probes and all the other necessary equipment pretty much since the beginning. Over the years the machines and rectal probes have become smoother.

This has never been more evident than with its newest version, the Pulsator V ejaculator. I have evaluated bulls for 40 years, and the former version, the Pulsator IV, has been around for more than 25 years. The case has been improved, a learned program has been added and the probes built with upright yokes to protect the cords and keep the electrical connection sound.

I like its pre-stored programs with space to have more added as they are developed over time. Anyone who collects a lot of bulls knows yearlings are more sensitive, particularly Angus, so the Angus program is a slower progression. The old adage, “slow and steady wins the race,” is never more true than with this program.

You can see first-hand how a steady program results in less vocalization, fewer bulls going down in the chute and a higher protrusion rate.

The probes were upgraded a few years ago, and the two metal bar stimulation is smoother than the three bar. As well, weighted probes allow the operator to use the small probe in herd sires.

I would rarely use the middle probe and virtually never use the largest probe. This makes it much easier to insert and retrieve the probe.

Everything from the cord connection to the machine allows a uniform connection.

The amount of electricity used is smaller, and the newer battery is much lighter and carries a charge for many hundreds of bulls.

In the event it does run down, it can be charged and used at the same time, which is another big plus.

The biggest change I noticed was the rheostat (dial), which seems instantly responsive. The bulls respond at the lowest setting so collections are generally achieved at a lower level than I formerly experienced.

The other feature that will take some getting used to is the ability to add up to 10 learned programs, which means you can teach the machine your own program and then just have it repeat that.

I have always said there is a bit of an art to collection, and some veterinarians are definitely better than others. This allows everyone to be relatively consistent.

The Pulsator IV only had one learned feature so I found I would just change it as I saw fit.

With the new version, I intend to put in my own Simmental, Limousin, Gelbvieh, Hereford, and Speckled Park programs and use the two Angus and Charolais programs that are already pre-programmed. The company says it will have some of these programs to upgrade in the future.

The animal welfare focus continues to increase in veterinary medicine, and this newest technology keeps raising the bar. I find that most bulls exit the chute slowly and are curious and looking around, so I feel confident that minimal stress has been involved.

Good facilities help immensely, but we always want to do the job as unobtrusively as possible with no injuries. It is great to see companies keep pushing the bar on improving electro-ejaculation.

As well, ram and billie goat probes are available that hook onto the same machine, and this same smoothness can be conveyed to that species as well as bison and elk. I have even heard of younger bison older than 18 months being collected using the ram probe, but I generally use the small cattle one with good success.

Roy Lewis works as a veterinarian in Alberta.

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