Saturday, December 20, 2014

Meet the Herd: Elvis the Bull #farming #animals

WARNING: This post contains references to animal breeding and uses anatomically correct language and some slang. Gentle readers may find the topic uncomfortable.

Elvis in his natural state: eating
If you stop by this blog now and again, you may have come across the first member of our herd to be profiled, Mr. Donkey. Our bull Elvis is next. He joined us in 2009 and is a full-blood Black Angus. Why did we name him Elvis? We were looking for a Romeo, a bull who could woo our cows like they've never been wooed, and make very pretty babies. Elvis was a good choice, because he curls his lip in true Presley fashion when he's in an amorous mood.

Our first bull (Bully) came from my parent's farm, and when it was time to replace him, we were a little nervous. Picking a bull isn't as easy as it might sound.

It turns out that you need a bull strong enough to dominate his herd and fight off other bovine contenders for the attention of his females. He has to have good stamina and a healthy libido to ensure all the ladies get bred at the right time. It's important that he have a small head and relatively narrow shoulders, so his calves have no problems coming down the birth canal. His calves have to put on weight quickly, so they bring a good price at the sale barn. It's also important that our bull be easy to manage and not try to dominate us.

While you can judge some of these traits by appearance and personality, one of the most important factors to a bull's success - his fertility or rate of impregnation - can only be judged through his testicles.


So how do you measure a bull's rate of impregnation? Just like with a human male, you can take a sample of his semen and evaluate sperm quality and quantity. Are we likely to do this with Elvis? Heck no.

Another way to determine fertility is to measure the size of your bull's balls.

I laughed the first time I heard that. I thought the guy who told us was joking, but he was quite serious.

It turns out that size does matter where a bull's plums are concerned. Scrotum circumference influences the number of sperm a bull produces, the size of his son's scrotum, and his daughter's fertility. (If you're fascinated by this topic, see this article at the University of Missouri Extension website.)



Back to Elvis. How do his cobblers measure up? We'll never know for sure, because I'm not about to chase Elvis around the pasture with a tape measure. From eyeballing his backside, they look pretty good to me.




The best proof is his offspring. We haven't had to pull any of Elvis' calves from the birth canal, which means the babies are a good shape. His bulls weigh in nicely on sale day, so we have no complaints on growth rate. And our cows end up bred every year, which means that Elvis' libido and his sperm are doing their job.

That's probably more than you ever wanted to know about bulls and cow breeding, and Elvis would be mortified to know I've been talking about his gonads. So to end this post on a lighter note, I'll share a few fun facts about Elvis:

Favorite book: The Butterfly and The Bull by Stuart Haddon. Elvis is chuffed that a Black Angus bull can play such an important role in a paranormal thriller. He thinks he might have a shot at a starring role in Haddon's next book, but we're trying to keep his ego in check.

Favorite song: He digs the Elvis Presley version of Milkcow Blues Boogie (music and lyrics by Sleepy John Estes) because it's sung by his namesake.

Favorite food: Cubes from the Big Blue Bucket. No question.

Little known fact: Elvis weighs almost as much as a Mini Cooper, but he's a gentle fellow and loves a rub between the ears.

Check back for more posts on other members of the herd, including Mr. Donkey, Sid Vicious, 107, and Gimpy.