Pedigree beef cattle breeders are being urged to semen test their bulls prior to sale with buyers encouraged to pay more attention to National Beef Association Bull Warranty guidelines if the national beef herd is to improve overall levels of efficiency.

With most farmers looking to tighten up calving intervals, the purchase of a bull unfit to work when required, can have serious implications not only on workloads from an extended calving pattern, but also future cash flows.

Add to that the increased costs of keeping an unproductive cow or heifer that has failed to hold to the bull due to fertility issues, and bull breeders and buyers need to be a lot more aware of when to buy a bull.

However, with most bulls sold under 20months of age and therefore sold before they have fully matured, buyers need to pay particular attention to when such animals are required for.

"There is only a small percentage of bulls that fail fertility tests, but those that do can be bought privately or at society sales," John Roberts, United Auctions director and auctioneer, told The Scottish Farmer.

"Bulls sold through the live ring at breed sales are under the auspices of the various societies, but vendors and purchasers also have to adhere to National Beef Cattle Association rules regarding bull warranties, should their be any problems. Bulls can be bought with various levels of insurance – vendors may chose to cover their bulls or buyers can use their own insurance companies – but NBA bull warranty guidelines have to be strictly followed for any claims. There are also rules on the number of cows or heifers a young bull should be put out with."

On a more positive note, Mr Roberts pointed out that an increasing number of breeders are semen testing their bulls prior to sale as a means to adding value.

"We are seeing more and more farmers semen test their bulls and its these animals that are commanding a premium in the market place compared to those that have not been tested," he said.

Scott Donaldson, joint managing director at Harrison and Hetherington, also encouraged breeders to semen test bulls on the run up to sales, and added that buyers need to be more focused on what they are looking for and when they need the animal to go out and work.

"I would urge beef producers to buy a bull three months before they need it to make sure the animal has settled in to its new environment before it needs to go out and work. There is no point in buying a bull and expecting to take it home and work that day.

"You also have to remember that some bulls take longer to mature than others, therefore buyers should take into consideration their age before giving them too much to do. It is in everyone's interest to make sure a newly purchased young bull is mature and capable of performing before relying on him 100%," said Mr Donaldson.