Are you considering purchasing a stock bull this year?

If you are considering purchasing a stock bull or a vasectomised bull for this year’s breeding season, now is the time to do it.

It is important to leave sufficient time between purchasing the bull and introducing him to your herd, so that he has time to settle into his new surroundings before being put to work.

Before purchasing a bull for your herd, there are some things that need to be considered.


Friesian bulls or bulls kept from the herd are commonly used at the end of the breeding season to ‘mop up’; however, the recent bull-calf crisis has led to a lot of farmers considering purchasing beef stock bulls for this year’s breeding season.

If this is your decision, you should not base your choice solely on the look of the bull. The purchased bull should be AI bred, genomically tested and the bulls €uro-Star Index examined.

Things to consider:
  • Select a bull with a calving difficulty below 3% for heifers and below 5% for cows – with a high reliability. However, this can vary depending on the cow size and breed;
  • Avoid a bull having a plus in gestation length;
  • A plus in carcass weight is desirable, again with a high reliability.

For heifers, it is paramount that she is going to calve easy and go back in calf quickly so an easy-calving bull is essential.

The ICBF (Irish Cattle Breeding Federation) recently launched a new feature on its website called the Stockbull Finder. This tool allows you to select a bull – based on the specific criteria that you want – from herds which are independently assessed by the ICBF.

Ideally, a stock bull should be fertility tested before sale; however, this is not always the case and some farmers have purchased infertile bulls in the past. So it is best to ask before purchase.


The number of bulls required will depend on herd size and the proportion of the herd already in calf from AI.

Teagasc recommends that for a 100 cow herd – with approximately 50% to 70% of the herd in-calf after 6-weeks of AI – at least two bulls will be required and if fewer than half of the herd is in calf after six weeks of AI, three bulls will be required.

If possible bulls should be rotated to allow them time to rest before being reintroduced to the herd. If a bull is over-worked and becomes tired, heats may be missed and empty rates will be higher.


When sourcing a stock bull – or any stock – there are a number of things that need to be looked at before deciding which herd to purchase from.

  • Is the herd registered with the Irish Johne’s Control programme (IJCP)?;
  • If so, how long is it registered with the IJCP and how many negative whole herd tests and VRAMPs (Veterinary Risk Assessment and Management Planning) have been completed?;
  • Is it a closed herd?;
  • Is it disease free?;
  • What is the farm’s vaccination protocol?

If you purchase a stock bull(s) which has/have not been vaccinated for a disease that your herd is vaccinated against, the bull(s) should be isolated from the herd until he is fully vaccinated against these diseases.