March 24, 2021
February freeze may impact spring cattle breeding
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Temperatures reached record lows throughout Arkansas in mid-February
- The fertility of bulls may suffer in the short term if they were not adequately sheltered during the freeze
- Breeders urged to seek complete breeding soundness exam for breeding cattle
HOPE, Ark. — Cattle breeding experts with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture are urging cattle producers to test the fertility of their bulls before the spring breeding season.
Charles Looney, professor of cattle improvement for the Division of Agriculture, said the unusual freeze event the state experienced in mid-February may have resulted in infertility in bulls that did not have adequate shelter.
From Feb. 15-16, weather stations across Arkansas recorded record-low temperatures, some of which were well below zero.
“When cows get cold, they huddle together and turn their backs to the wind,” Looney said. “In south Arkansas, we saw unusually cold temperatures in February.
“We were worried about bulls that didn’t have good bedding to lay down in,” he said. “So some bulls, their scrotum is just going to be exposed. Anything that affects a bull’s scrotum can affect the fertility of its spermatozoa, which is generated on about a 60-day cycle.”
There are approximately 1 million head of beef cattle in Arkansas, Looney said, with cattle in every county in the state.
“About 80 percent of Arkansas cattle breeders use a spring breeding season, so they’ll be breeding in April and May,” Looney said.
“In most cases, if the fertility has been affected by a cold-weather event, it’s something the bull can recover from,” Looney said. “There may be some frostbite, some scabbing on the scrotum, and there may be abnormalities in the sperm. In most cases, they can recover, but it will take 60 days for that bull to produce new spermatozoa, so we’re going to be right on the line this spring.
“Some bulls may never recover,” he said.
Looney said the most important thing beef cattle producers can do in the intervening period before spring breeding season arrives is to schedule a complete breeding soundness exam, to include testing for Trichomoniasis, with a large animal veterinarian.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service