Revolutionary bull fertility science to come under the spotlight at BSAS event

Developments in bull fertility and the steps needed to drive herd performance and profitability will be the focus of a major international conference coming to the west of Ireland later this month.

Hosted by the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS), Bull Fertility: Theory into practice, will bring experts from across the world back to Westport once again to discuss the challenges and innovations in cattle breeding and managing bulls to maximise fertility.

Organised by scientists in Teagasc, University College Dublin and University of Limerick - along with colleagues in veterinary practice - the event, held from 27-30 May, promises to be a one-stop shop for anyone interested in bull fertility and the influence it has on herd productivity.

As well as being an essential forum to discuss the future of cattle production, it will also be a critical CPD event for vets in practice, and anyone associated with any aspect of beef or dairy cattle breeding and general management.

Topics being covered across the four-day conference will include detailed overviews of the reproductive system of the bull, including causes of infertility, and nutritional management of pre- and post-pubertal bulls to optimise fertility.

New developments in semen handling, processing and sex-sorting will also be explored, as will the way genomically-assisted selection has revolutionised the dairy sector.

Meanwhile a special wet lab session will offer an essential learning experience for any veterinary practitioners engaged in providing bull breeding soundness evaluation services, surgical interventions, or general health management. 

Understanding fertility's impact

Teagasc research scientist and BSAS event organiser David Kenny, said the event would be invaluable to scientists and veterinarians who want to understand more about bull fertility and its impact on herd productivity.

“Farmers often refer to the bull as ‘half the herd’, which is unsurprising given the influence of bull fertility and genetic makeup has in determining calf quality and quantity,” he said.

“This is true not only for natural service herds but most especially where artificial insemination is used. 

“For example, many genetically elite Holstein bulls have sired in excess of 100,000 daughters worldwide, thus having a major influence on the genetics of the breed. Even in natural service, individual stock bulls can sire a couple of hundred calves in their lifetime,” he added.

“Therefore any issue with infertility or indeed subfertility of a bull can have devastating consequences for the subsequent years calf crop, particularly in natural service herds.”

Driving discussions

Professor Kenny said that despite its importance to the genetic improvement of cattle worldwide, there has been little effort to provide a dedicated forum to discuss issues and new research findings around bull fertility until now.

“The devotion of an entire conference to this subject is entirely novel and is reflected in the level of support received for the event from all aspects of the cattle breeding industry,” he added. 

“It is a natural follow on from the very successful BSAS cow fertility conference held in the same venue in 2014.”
Held in Westport, a must-see destination for any visit to the west of Ireland, the event will also include a packed social programme offering delegates the chance to visit one of Ireland’s leading tourist spots.

Overlooked by Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s most famous mountain, the town is renowned for its incredible scenery and Georgian architecture, including the iconic Westport House - regarded as Ireland’s most beautiful stately home. 

Getting to Westport is simple, with Ireland West Airport (Knock) just 45 minutes away. There are also daily train services to Westport from Dublin, which is three hours by road.

Tickets for the conference are available now, and would-be delegates are urged to register before 18 May to secure their place.