Ask the Vet

Buyer's Remorse Over Sale Barn Bulls

Buying a bull at the local sale barn requires a commitment to quarantine and extensive testing prior to putting him in with the cow herd. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

Question: I was at a sale recently and purchased a bull I really like. What do I need to do before putting him in with the cows?

Answer: I guess taking him back is not an option? Buying a bull at a sale barn is often the first step in a bad case of buyer's remorse.

To start with, I really hope you kept this bull quarantined from the rest of the herd. Even if cattle from a sale appear healthy, they can carry a lot of diseases, including infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), anaplasmosis and tritrichomoniasis (trich), just to name a few. During quarantine, the bull needs to be vaccinated and boosted for leptospirosis, vibriosis, IBR, bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) and BVD. Also, check as to whether this bull is persistently infected (PI) with BVD. Be sure he is dewormed.

That is just the starting point. Next, this bull needs a complete breeding soundness evaluation done by your veterinarian. Include a culture for trich. Current recommendations for culturing allow two weeks of sexual rest followed by three weekly cultures. This is not cheap and will increase his total cost.

After all of this, you likely still have no idea about this bull's genetic merit. He could be at a sale barn because his calves were too big at birth or were just not good. So tread carefully.

Maybe you see why I like option one the best when it comes to bulls from sale barns. In my experience, this is not a good place to buy a bull. They are there for a reason, and most of those reasons are not going to make him a good choice as your next herd bull.