Often, dairy cow owners are nervous about their bulls. In fact, many owners of dairy cattle refuse to own a bull. And, when you look at the statistics, they are wise to be cautious. Dairy bulls are responsible for more injuries and fatalities than any other kind of bull. However, to have calves, you either have to have a bull on site or you have to perform artificial insemination.
For years, our family has raised and kept Angus bulls on our properties. While they are not friendly, I don't live in fear for my life every time I step foot in the pasture. In fact, I am not afraid to move our bull from field to field, and I've never had one of our bulls scare me. Yet, a bull is a powerful animal; he could easily pound a person into the ground without a second thought, and many people have been hurt by them. Here are some tips that you may want to consider when raising a bull from your herd.
1. They're not cows, they're not dogs, and they're not horses.
A bull is a bull. Never ever forget that. Some people put rings in their noses and halters on their heads, but even with some training, a bull is 2000 pounds of muscle. Even a 6-month-old newly weaned bull is a force to be reckoned with. Always respect the superior strength and mass of a bull. If you get in a fight with him, you will not win.
2. Let his mama raise him.
At all costs, avoid raising your next herd bull on a bottle. He needs to have a natural respect for people that is easily eroded by being bottle-fed. Let his mama raise him and keep your distance. If you have to raise him on a bottle, keep your relationship strictly business. Yes, baby bulls are cute and sweet, but keep the end in mind, and avoid making him into a pet.
Additionally, bulls raised in a herd are less likely to become dangerously aggressive. Raising bulls in larger groups of cattle where there are animals that are bigger and stronger than him will help keep him from feeling that he has to "prove himself" with aggression.
3. Don't spar with your young bull calves.
Bull calves love to head butt one another, and if you're around you much they may try this game with humans. When they are small, it can be a fun game. However, this game gets deadlier as he gets older, bigger, and stronger. Don't ever let him think he can push you around. If he tries to push you with his head, smack him on the end of the nose or twist his ear. You may want to carry a switch or a riding crop to teach him to keep his distance. You don't want your bull crowding you, and when you're dealing with a young, friendly bull, it's up to you to teach him to stay out of your space.
4. Get your bluff in early.
Every bull we've ever had has tried to challenge my husband at some time or another. Usually, this happens shortly after weaning. My husband yells at the bull, waves his arms, and acts intimidating, and if the bull won't back off, the bull gets a swift kick in the nose. The idea is to keep the bull guessing and force him to back off. Of course, he can kick your tail easily if he believes he can, so always have a way of escape in mind. If you are not quick on your feet, just avoid the bull altogether. Make sure that he sees you at a young age as the dominant animal in the herd. You should behave confidently as you handle him, and if you are afraid, you shouldn't be messing with a bull. However, once your bull is older, you shouldn't try this approach.
Be sure to check out Part 2 to learn more tips on raising a herd bull.