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CATTLE TODAY

IT'S THE PITTS -- RECYCLABULL

by: Lee Pitts

Some women say that bulls are a lot like men; they're only good for one thing and after they're done doing that then what do you do with them? While I don't agree with that analogy, I do think that bulls have a lot in common with British Royalty: other than their breeding they aren't good for anything. After the breeding season is over bulls are as worthless as a Christmas Tree on December 26, an empty piñata, a pumpkin the day after Halloween and hard boiled eggs after Easter Sunday.

After bulls are pulled from the cows they require separate pastures and special treatment. They fight worse than Congress and do almost as much damage. In the off season they tear up fences, feeders, horses and cowboys. To add insult to injury they require expensive extra feed to get back in shape. On second thought, maybe they are like men. They sit around eating and causing trouble and the only time they show any interest at all in doing anything other than sleeping, eating and tearing up stuff is during breeding season. My wife says it's exactly like men during football season.

Ever since man and woman first domesticated cattle they have tried to come up with creative ways to get rid of “the bull problem.” They have run the bulls with the cows all year, leased bulls or sent them to a feedlot and let other people suffer the damages. In a few extreme cases bulls drove some cattlemen so insane they sold their cows and started raising sheep. It's my belief that there simply have to be other solutions that stop short of smelling like a Southdown sheep at all times.

Some progressive cattlemen buy bulls in partnership with their neighbor and one uses the bulls for a Fall calving date and the other for a Spring calving season. This gets the bulls off the premises at least for a little while. As a progressive cattlemen I have been sharing my neighbors bulls for years. But he keeps fixing the fences.

Technology has solved the bull problem for some ranchers. Using artificial insemination can limit the number of bulls one requires but this doesn't solve the problem entirely because a few cleanup bulls have to be kept around. (Kind of like Britney Spear's husband.) I suppose that some day embryo transfer might become commercially viable and the UPS driver will probably just deliver embryos and you'll implant them in your cows. But for now it can cost up to $1,500 for each embryo calf and, I don't know about you, but that's just a tad more more than I usually get for my 550 pound calves.

I know some ranchers who have solved the bull problem by recycling them after every breeding season. But most of us can't afford selling a bologna bull for $1,000 and replacing him with one at $3,500. I know one rancher who tries to buy young recycled bulls out of the slaughter run at the auction market and over the years he has put together quite a collection of diseased, sterile and man-killing bulls.

One year my bull problem was eliminated when a drunk driver crashed into my bull pasture and killed a couple bulls in the process. I'd use this solution more often but I'd think the insurance company might get suspicious after awhile.

Perhaps the most creative way to handle the bull problem was explained to me by a purebred bull producer. He'd been trying to get a big rancher to come and buy bulls at his sale for years. Finally he just loaned the cattleman a bull and said, “Try him and if you don't like him bring him back. If you do like him you can pay me later.”

Immediately after the breeding season the rancher brought the bull back, said he didn't like him but that he'd like to try again. The breeder told him that at his next sale he could pick out another bull. Prior to the auction the rancher changed his mind and said, “I don't want the bull credit at your sale. Just give me back my money instead.”

“But you never paid for the bull in my upcoming sale!” said the purebred breeder.

“Well, why should I? I never used him,” replied the very creative cattleman.

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