Common Injuries in Breeding Bulls

By Ceanna Tannas, AHT

The most common injuries we see in breeding bulls are foot and leg injuries as a result of mounting and fighting, as well as injuries of the reproductive organs such as the penis and testicles. These injuries can limit or even prevent a bull from breeding which can have significant effects in reproductive efficiency.

Foot and Leg Injuries

A very common occurrence is footrot which is an infection of the soft tissues between the claws or interdigital space, caused by the organism Fusobacterium necrophorum. Cuts, punctures and abrasions on the foot provide an entry route for this bacterium, as it cannot gain entry through healthy skin on its own. It is most common in wet conditions and lameness

Footrot

Footrot

is usually the first sign with concurrent reddening and swelling. It is ideal to catch footrot early and treat with antibiotics; otherwise, it can further invade tendons and joints.  Other foot problems and pathology can be noted during the breeding season such as injuries and abscesses, but should not be confused with footrot. There is an old saying, “if you have to treat footrot more than once, it probably isn’t footrot”.

A bull’s breeding ability can be compromised by knee injuries which are usually caused by fighting or mis-stepping during a breeding jump. The cruciate ligament in a bull’s stifle can be torn and would require treatment anywhere from rest to surgery. Soundness in a breeding bull’s hind legs is particularly important because mounting puts a lot of stress on the bull’s hind limbs.

Reproductive Problems

Preputial laceration

Preputial Laceration

Broken penises are another common injury in breeding bulls. There is no actual bone in a bull’s penis, so “broken penis” is slightly misleading. This actually refers to a hematoma or a blood clot in the tissues around the penis. This type of injury occurs during mating when there is a sudden bend in the erect penis. A small heifer going down under a large bull or a direct hit from another bull during breeding are some examples of when this may occur. A swelling ahead of the scrotum can be noticed and the bull must be removed from the breeding pasture to prevent further injury. Sexual rest and possibly further medical treatment may be indicated.

Preputial lacerations can occur either during mating or from injury. They can also be described as a cut on the hairless, flexible tissue that connects the sheath to the penis. Swelling is a common addition to the laceration, which prevents the prepuce from being retracted back into the protective sheath, causing further damage. Prepuce lacerations are more common in bulls that routinely prolapse their prepuce which can be associated with some polled breeds. Treatment depends on the depth of the cut, but it is important to catch early to prevent additional injury and possible permanent damage.

The scrotum and testicles can become damaged during the breeding season as well. Orchitis, also known as swollen testicles, can be a result of injury or an infection in the body. A swelling around the scrotum of the bull can be noticed along with heat and possible redness. Depending on the severity of the damage, the bull’s semen viability may be affected with a higher number of abnormal sperm. Bulls can recover from these injuries, but permanent damage is possible.

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