Bull reproductive evaluations can offer some insurance to beef producers heading into the spring breeding season, and high cattle and feed prices make the exams especially important this year, a Purdue Extension beef specialist says.

The exams are conducted by veterinarians or reproductive physiologists who check the animals' overall and reproductive health, including body condition, feet and leg condition, eyes, and internal and external reproductive organs.

"The goal of having a herd bull is to get all cows bred, and that means the bulls need to be physically sound," Ron Lemenager said. "Cattle and feed prices are both too high not to give cows every opportunity to get bred. If you've never evaluated your bull before, this is the year to do it."

It's critical for producers to be sure that all bulls, not just yearling or young bulls, are sound for breeding - and that includes those that were evaluated or bred cows previously.

"Evaluations are an every year deal," Lemenager said. "Just because a bull bred cows last summer does not necessarily mean that he's going to breed cows this year."

Part of the exams is to check for frostbite or other reproductive organ ailments that could hinder breeding. Semen also is evaluated based on motility and morphology and if sperm are alive or dead.

It takes about 60 days for bulls to produce sperm, so Lemenager recommended that producers have their bulls evaluated 45-60 days before their breeding season begins. Doing so also allows time to recondition and retest animals that don't score well.

"If a bull has poor semen quality or has some physical anomaly, it gives producers an opportunity to re-evaluate the animal before the breeding season begins," he said.

If the animal fails a second reproductive evaluation, there is still time to find a replacement bull.