Many Irish farmers are about to enter one of the most critical phases of their calendar: breeding season. For any farmer, having a good successful breeding season is essential to the productivity and sustainability of their farming enterprise. For those looking to calve down next February, we have some tips on how to have a successful breeding season.

Know the Bull to Cow Ratio

The bull to cow ratio is a critical factor in breeding season success. On average, a bull can effectively service around 30 cows annually, including repeats. However, this ratio can vary depending on factors such as bull age, breed, and health status. It’s essential to assess the condition and performance of your bulls before they are released and regularly after to ensure they can meet the demands of the breeding season.


Make keeping track of dates and observations part of your daily routine. Keep detailed records of breeding start dates, heat cycles, and any interventions or treatments administered in advance and during the season. This information not only helps in managing individual animals but can help make informed decisions for future breeding seasons.

To help save time, The Herdwatch farm management app allows farmers to record possible temperature/heat of animals and help identify non-cycling cows. Farmers can set a 21-day reminder to alert them to watch out for selected cows. Farmers can record all serves, single or multiple, as they happen and without internet connection, simply, through the app on their phones.


Once the season starts, observation is a key element of effective breeding season management. Not just to watch the cows, but to understand their behaviour. This is a good way to detect stressors and identify any issues that may hinder successful breeding. Take the time to observe the herd daily, noting any changes in behaviour, signs of heat, or abnormalities that could signal health issues.

Moreover, don’t overlook the importance of observing the bull during this crucial period. Bulls, like cows, can experience stress during breeding season. Some may isolate themselves from the herd, impacting their breeding effectiveness. Regular observation ensures early detection of any problems.

Ensure the Bull is Working

As mentioned above, it is essential to observe the bull and ensure he is serving the cows/heifers. Watch for:

  • Overworking the bull by having too many cows/heifers to serve, this may lead to exhaustion.
  • It can be common for bulls to get injuries through the season. Watch for signs of lameness or limping as this will hinder his ability to complete the season. Treat any illness immediately and consult your hoofcare professional on if he is capable of continuing.
  • Adverse weather conditions can be a stressor for bulls. Provide adequate shade and water to help livestock cope with a multitude of temperatures.
  • Some bulls are prone to laziness. This could be due to age and breed or in some cases if they are over conditioned. Some farmers rotate bulls (depending on cow numbers) as this can help keep bulls fresh and help to share the workload. 

Consider early scanning cows/heifers. Early detection of an infertile or a sub-fertile bull is critical to the success of the season. The earlier the farmer is informed; the quicker action can be taken to rectify the situation with another bull or artificial insemination. Teagasc recommends that scanning can take place at least 35 days since the last cow in the herd could have been served. Results from the scan help with planning and estimated timelines for the year ahead.

Remember, safety is paramount no matter how long the stock bull is introduced to the herd. With testosterone levels on the rise during breeding season, even the calmest bull can exhibit unpredictable and dangerous behaviour.

Book your Hoofcare with FRS Farm Relief

FRS provides an expert Hoof Care service to farmers. FRS technicians recommend lame bulls should be seen to as soon as a foot condition is detected. Each FRS Hoof Care Specialist will be able to advise the farmer on the best possible care for their animals.

To find out more about FRS Hoof Care Service, visit

Book your Pregnancy Scanning with FRS Farm Relief

FRS Farm Relief offers a pregnancy scanning service. For more information, visit

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