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Buying bulls - know your risks and create a plan

With bull sale season upon us, North Coast beef producers are being reminded to consider their options carefully when it comes to choosing the right sire.

Reproductive soundness, temperament, conformation and favourable EBV’s are all paramount when it comes to evaluating the suitability of a particular bull for sale. However, North Coast Local Land Services District Vet, Sarah Bolton, draws particular attention to the health challenges posed when purchasing bulls from Western or Southern areas and introducing them to the coast.

“Bulls are a significant investment, with the choices made on sale day and the weeks following having the potential to impact herd profitability for years to come” Dr Bolton explained. “It is vital that producers are well informed when it comes to health risks and take active steps towards reducing the impact of diseases that have the potential to cause illthrift, infertility or even death.”

Of primary importance for consideration is Theileria, a protozoan parasite spread by bush ticks which are widespread on the coast. “Unlike local animals, any cattle introduced to the coast from inland or southern areas are at risk of being na├»ve to this disease which can lead to illness or death and potentially render bulls temporarily infertile” said Dr Bolton. “With no reliable preventatives or treatments, producers are encouraged to seriously consider the risk of this disease when evaluating potential purchases from west of the range” Dr Bolton warned.

In addition, producers should consider the threat to bull fertility and wider herd health posed by Three Day Sickness, Pestivirus, Vibrio, Leptospirosis and Clostridial diseases. Ensuring bulls are vaccinated for preventable diseases well before the joining period will ensure the chances of reproductive catastrophes are minimized. Any introduced stock should also undergo a period of quarantine upon arrival to the property.

It is also important to bear in mind that any animals introduced to the coast will undergo a period of adjustment to local climatic and nutritional conditions as well as parasite challenges. Paying careful attention to parasite management and nutrition will help reduce these stresses during the adjustment period. Given the current shortages of supplemental feed, careful planning will be required to ensure nutritional demands are met.

Beef producers are encouraged to speak with their veterinarian about suitable vaccination regimens for newly purchased bulls and their wider herd as well as the risks involved with introducing cattle from inland areas to the coast.

Further information on cattle health can be found on the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries website. Landholders can also contact their local District Veterinarian by contacting North Coast Local Land Services on 1300 795 299.

Media contact: Dr Sarah Bolton, District Veterinarian, South Grafton 0427 458 592.

Photo caption: Producers are reminded to regularly review their bull team’s preventative health regimens.