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  #1  
Old 10/14/06, 09:39 PM
 
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Select for disposition - dairy bulls?

People talk about how mean dairy bulls are. So here’s some questions.

I assume dairy cow disposition is considered to be important. Is there a relationship between bull disposition and that of his female offspring? Or do you blame mean bulls on testosterone only? I wouldn’t think so.

If ornery bulls throw more ornery heifers, then why isn’t there more effort to weed out mean dairy bulls?

Seems if the bulls from other breeds are more gentle, the same could happen in the dairy breeds through selection. But maybe disposition is not considered in favor of milk production?

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Old 10/14/06, 09:49 PM
 
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Hmmm, I have no clue why. But could be Dairy bulls had a more hands on raising then beef bulls, causing a lost of fear of humans?

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  #3  
Old 10/14/06, 09:57 PM
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I have never had a mean cow, even out of the orneriest of bulls. That said, I do choose breeding bulls out of gentle cows......as long as the rest of her meets criteria.

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  #4  
Old 10/15/06, 01:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJ in WA
People talk about how mean dairy bulls are. So here’s some questions.

I assume dairy cow disposition is considered to be important. Is there a relationship between bull disposition and that of his female offspring? Or do you blame mean bulls on testosterone only? I wouldn’t think so.

If ornery bulls throw more ornery heifers, then why isn’t there more effort to weed out mean dairy bulls?

Seems if the bulls from other breeds are more gentle, the same could happen in the dairy breeds through selection. But maybe disposition is not considered in favor of milk production?
I think people are more aware of danger of dairy bulls(and more are killed by them) as opposed to beef bulls, simply because humans put themselves in harm's way more frequently with dairy bulls. A dairy farmer may walk in a pen or pasture with a bull present 730 or more times a year to do his/her daily work, whereas a beef farmer may only be onfoot in a pen or pasture with a bull a few days of the year? Point being I think Beef Bulls are plenty dangerous too.
Weeding out mean dairy bulls is kind of a reverse process. First you use the Bull, then 2-3 years later you start milking his daughters, and find out they are mean, ornery kicking wenches. There are dairy bulls that are ranked very highly for type and milk production, but I refuse to use them, because their daughters and some of their granddaughters are ornery kickers. But by the time you know this, you already own them.

Just a side note..The New Zealand Bull Proof system has a category ( I think it is called milking shed Disposition) that addresses your concerns.
This would definately be good because you have an idea on the general disposition of a Bull's daughter's before you use him on your cows.
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  #5  
Old 10/15/06, 01:38 AM
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And then from what I have been reading their are also breeds like the Dexter that just naturally have gentle bulls for the most part.

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  #6  
Old 10/15/06, 11:27 AM
 
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I’ve heard herefords in general are more gentle. When I was about ten, my dad threw me on a Hereford bull over a ton and he just kept walking along.

Lowline angus are also supposed to be more gentle. I saw on the internet a bull from Australia that was described as “extremely docile”. At this site, click on "max recorded weight" and see a small lady handling him.

http://www.murrumbong.com/murrumbongusa.html#semen

At our fair, I see lots of beef bulls which are handled a lot. They appear gentle, which challenges the ‘loss of fear’ theory from being around people.

As you discussed, Up North, perhaps many think more of production than disposition. Maybe it’s harder to select for multiple traits. I’d relate it to my leghorn chickens, which are known for being flighty. I would think someone could start selecting out the gentle ones, and change the breed. I’d guess most laying operations don’t care, as they don’t handle the birds.

You’d think dairies would care more, though, as they handle cows several times daily, and I assume gentleness is related to milk letdown. Sounds like the New Zealanders have a good idea by scoring the bulls on disposition.

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Old 10/15/06, 12:16 PM
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I feel that the major cause of problems with dairy bulls has less to do with 'natural temperament' than it does with how they're raised. In most cases, it's common for dairy calves to be hand raised on a bottle rather than on the cow. Because of the manner they are raised, they have less healthy respect for humans than they would if they were raised in a herd situation. I also don't feel it's a characteristic of dairy bulls only. I've seen it happen with show bulls of many breeds, including a simmental bull a neighbor raised by hand. It's also a common mistake among people hand raising livestock to treat them like a pet than to treat them as livestock. One of the most dangerous horses I ever had to deal with was a bottle baby, he remained arrogant and agressive and had no respect for the safety/comfort zone that you want from livestock. He would always try and treat you like a herdmate instead of a human. In my opinion, too much human interaction causes the problem and humans feel that if it's hand raised the animal will be more quiet and less agressive. Instead, it is quiet but unpredictable.

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  #8  
Old 10/15/06, 03:32 PM
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Raise dairy bulls with beef cattle, they will respect you because as WR said they wont get too comfortable with you. I have a bull calf, he is as friendly as any heifer would be. I am keeping him untill I use him for breeding, then he goes. Once they get beyond 2 yrs or 1.5 yrs even, they have to be watched.


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  #9  
Old 10/15/06, 06:17 PM
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Disposition is a major culling factor with me. I've also culled some cows I could go up to and scratch but simply didn't want to go where you wanted them to. When they would cut and run, they normally take the rest of the heard with them.

Of the ten calves being weaned this year I can walk within 2-3 feet of nine of them. The spookie is a heifer out of a gentle Jersey. Bought her bred, so don't know who the sire was, but I suspect a Gurnsey from her head. The heifer is the largest of the calves, and would likely make a dandy brood cow, but she is going to market on Tuesday to become someone else's opportunity.

My herd bull is a 4-5 year old Angus, Nice dispostion, but I still don't trust him.

The gentlest bull I have had was a purebred Brahman. He would let you sit on him when he was laying down.

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Old 10/15/06, 07:30 PM
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Disposition is partially genetic, Semex actually has a category on their proofs for Temperament. It's a minor trait, not very definite, but it's a factor. The driving force for Semex finally conceding that they needed a temperament trait was two bulls, an Ayrshire named Bonnie Brae Heligo and a Holstein named Hanoverhill Lieutenant. Both caused massive disposition problems no matter how gentle the cows they were used on were. There were three of us breeding Ayrshires here within 3 miles in the early 90s. At that time it was very hard for us to get bulls other than from Semex so we all had to use Heligo pretty heavily, we had 30 daughters of him milking at one time and all were absolute nightmares. 2 of those herds (us and one other) switched to Holstein by cross-breeding because we were so disgusted with Heligo and Semex was offering almost exclusively Heligo sons as alternatives, the third farmer wouldn't go Holstein so he retired instead.

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Old 10/15/06, 09:49 PM
 
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So, disposition some combination of nature (genetics) and nurture (bottle-feeding,etc).

Okay, so it’s unfair to compare dairy vs beef bulls if in general, they are raised differently. Can compare temperament of those who are raised the same, and sounds like some selection would be good. At least to avoid bad problems like Dale mentioned.

Someone in a thread asked pros and cons of raising calves on bottle. Sounds like keeping “healthy respect” one advantage of nursing on cow, especially if you plan to keep a bull calf around for a long time. I suppose after you’re done bottle-feeding it’s too late to get that respect with a stick or something.

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Old 10/16/06, 07:30 AM
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There is bottle feeding and there is bottle feeding plus. A calf which is just fed and then left with no handling may be different from one which is rubbed and scratched before and after feeding. Once a calf is well started on a bottle they can actually be put out with a herd. You just have to go hunt them up when it becomes time to feed them. On the latter I had one which would wait until he saw another calf nursing from the side and then would sneak up and work the back tits unless the cow realized it and kicked him off. Still wanted his bottle though.

As noted on another thread likely many a dairy widow has said something to the effect: "We still don't know what happened. We bottle raised that bull and one day he just killed Harry."

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  #13  
Old 10/16/06, 08:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleK
Disposition is partially genetic, Semex actually has a category on their proofs for Temperament. It's a minor trait, not very definite, but it's a factor. The driving force for Semex finally conceding that they needed a temperament trait was two bulls, an Ayrshire named Bonnie Brae Heligo and a Holstein named Hanoverhill Lieutenant. Both caused massive disposition problems no matter how gentle the cows they were used on were. There were three of us breeding Ayrshires here within 3 miles in the early 90s. At that time it was very hard for us to get bulls other than from Semex so we all had to use Heligo pretty heavily, we had 30 daughters of him milking at one time and all were absolute nightmares. 2 of those herds (us and one other) switched to Holstein by cross-breeding because we were so disgusted with Heligo and Semex was offering almost exclusively Heligo sons as alternatives, the third farmer wouldn't go Holstein so he retired instead.
Hey Dale if these forums had existed sooner Dairy Farmers could have talked earlier and many could have avoided using these "people hating" Bulls. We have plenty of Heligo blood in our Ayrshire Herd. Maybe that's why I'm a gettin' kicked on a regular basis? LOL. Used an Ayrshire Bull called Liberty Hawk, and everyone of his daughters were ornery and routinely kicked the milkers off. Then his granddaughters thru the highly ranked Herman were almost as bad. I quit using both bulls, but I guess I'll suffer with those cows for a while yet.
I haven't owned any offsprimg of the Holstein Bull Ked Juror, but a lifelong follower of the breed I know warned me that they are some nasty cows to have in the herd.

One thing AI Studs look at is " Heritability" - They try to work with traits that have a high heritability. Hard to make much progress with traits that have a low level of heritability. Wonder if Disposition has a low or high level of heritability?
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Old 10/16/06, 08:41 AM
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One of the greatest mistakes people make when hand raising calves is to 'play' with them at the age when the little guys start liking the idea of knocking heads. I've seen so many people that think it's cute to encourage this kind of play with their bull calves and then can't grasp why the calf wants to play the same way when it's 1000 lbs. Regardless of breed, I cull because of temperament and totally agree with Ken when he says that you still don't trust a bull, even if he does have a great disposition.

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Old 10/16/06, 09:29 AM
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We've raised Jersey and Jersey/Norwegian Red bull calves up on bottles. Due to our particular set-up (we have 40 fence row neighbors and are within the town limits) keeping a bull past 15 months isn't something we generally do. The bulls that escape the local sale barn tend to end up here as well (less than a mile from there and the first farm east of it). Dad has been tossed by those bulls but not our own.
Anyways, we've raised up four bulls in the past couple of decades. The two Jerseys both went on to other herds after ours. The one (Londerry-LesterXBrigadier) was close to 6 or so before he was butchered I believe. Fairly easy to handle, but needed solid containment of course in his later years..being a bull. His younger half brother (Bountiful- BerrettaXBrigadier) had an even gentler dispostion. Not sure where he finally ended up after being used very little on our herd (his nieces made up the majority of the heifer herd at the time) and then used heavily at the school farm.
I didn't have much to do with either of those bulls as I was in school still.
I didn't have a lot to do with El Tigre-P (1/2 Norwegian, 1/2 Jersey) either. He was gone by about a year old because he had already settled half the entire herd starting at 8 months old! We didn't need anymore calves (boy were his daughters nice though...loved the Jersey line on him).
The last bull I did help raise. I was taught at a young age, you never pet a bull's head, ever...you never play with them and if your female you don't go near them at that time of the month...
Jason (3/4 Jersey, 1/4 N.R. out of Jace (7J535)), was a big baby. He'd lift his head up for his chin scratches if he saw me (which he had been taught to do since he was a day old). When he was 7 months old he got bored of being in his own pen, so he joined the cow herd. He was still pretty much a loner because they beat the crap out of him. He'd see me and cry maaaammmaaa and come over and lift his head for scratches. He spent most of his time out on the roadside...but spent enough time with the animals in heat to settle most who would have been sold as open heifers.
At one point he would follow the cows up to the barn and stand inside the door and wait patiently for the halter to be put on him and to be tied. Even if there were heifers riding one another right next to him he would just stand there.
He was shipped at 15 months old because we needed him gone and didn't want any calves in the next couple of months. It was 10PM at night when I went out to get him. I walked over, put the halter on him and led him to the barn. Just as calm as he had been most of his life. Just as well mannered. He did get spooked when he was being loaded but there were some large Holsteins in there jostling the trailer.
Only one time in his life was I ever truly concerned. I went out to get a cow and was wearing a hat. He didn't know who I was and did not want me taking his cow in heat. He started prancing around and I told him No. He stopped because he knew the voice, but it was too much for him and we went on like that for a ways. Me keeping my distance. I encouraged the guy helping to start carrying a stick just in case..
It was never an issue after that.
Having said all that, I never completely trusted him, but I had a good sense of how he would react.
I think a bit of what causes dairy bulls to get aggressive is being raised in confinement generally. You don't want them with heifers their age, because they mature quickly, you don't want them with younger heifers due to irritation, and how many dairies are going to feed a steer just to keep a bull company?
With goats, the common practice is to have a wether for loner bucks..
We are raising up a bull for next spring currently (MaximusXTopkickXBerretta). I haven't had much to do with him and it bothers me greatly. At 6 months he already puts his head down when I go in the pen. He, I will be scared of, I'm sure. I like to be in control of their learning years. This is why I prefer to hand raise my bucks from as young as possible. They understand I am boss from a younger age. They are easier to work with because of it. I need bucks I can move easily.

I can definiltey see genetics playing a role as well. Even from dam to daughter. Vi (at the school) is a steppy heifer. Her daughter is just a royal brat who tries to hurt you if you go in her pen (doesn't help she has developing horns).

Boy, none of that really contributed...
Oh well...lol

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Last edited by dosthouhavemilk; 10/16/06 at 09:35 AM.
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  #16  
Old 10/16/06, 12:44 PM
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Roseanna I sure enjoyed reading it anyway! Probably contributed more than you think.

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Old 10/16/06, 09:16 PM
 
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Docility as a heritable trait

I believe docility is one of those traits with moderately high heritability. I would agree that handling calves so that they lose the fear of humans does not help, but handling bulls on a halter and leading them on a nose ring are useful management practices and I would not give them up.

I don't believe handling has that much influence on the temperament. When I was a kid dairymen kept bulls until they had heifers who needed new blood. None were hand raised. Some of those bulls stayed on the farm until they were 5 or6 years old. All were considered dangerous. On the other hand, we were used to jumping on the back of my friend's dad's old hereford bull while he lay in the lot. Never even stopped chewing his cud. We'd never try that on his Brahman's, though some of them were docile. One of them tried to unseat him when he rode into the pasture looking the herd over--he returned to the house, loaded his shotgun with birdshot, stuck the box in his jacket and chased that bull all over the pasture, peppering him every time he got within 50 yards. Used up pretty near the whole box of shells; he was pretty angry about it. That was one good horse--never shied at a shot, never missed a calf, followed wild cows wherever they went and could hold a bull elephant.

Until I sold my Angus herd bull last year all my calves were docile to one degree or another. Now I have AI calves from three different bulls on the ground and one of them gets wall-eyed whenever I get near. Only the bulls changed. Gotta be genetics.
Ox

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Old 10/17/06, 01:24 PM
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The producer I tested for this morning swears Durham daughters are kicky wenches.

Anyone share his opinion?

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Old 10/17/06, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willow_girl
The producer I tested for this morning swears Durham daughters are kicky wenches.

Anyone share his opinion?
...YES.
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Old 10/17/06, 03:12 PM
 
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Now that I know some lingo (“docility”), did a search and came up with some scattered stuff. Sounds like docility has strong heritability.

From a Limousin site:
A little over a decade ago, at the Limousin Directions Breeders Symposium, Limousin breeders identified improving disposition as the number-one breed priority. Limousin breeders took their mission to improve this trait seriously. First, the North American Limousin Foundation developed a temperament scoring system. Then, the breed developed the industry's first docility EPD.

Using docility EPDs to drive selection and cull problem animals, Limousin breeders put strong selection pressure on disposition and made remarkable gains to improve docility. Rapid genetic progress was possible given the strong heritability of .40 computed for Limousin docility scores.
end quote

From an Irish breeding site:
With every day that passes docility in cattle is getting to be a bigger issue. With so many single person and part time farmers, nobody wants nervy, hard-to-handle and even dangerous stock. Apart from the difficulties in trying to handle them, cracked wild cattle are undesirable on a number of fronts. Such cattle are usually bad thrivers, especially during the housed period. The meat from nervous cattle has been shown to be less tender. In Australia the faster cattle exit from the crush the less tender their meat is deemed to be The only possible argument in favour of cattle that are on the wild side is that they can have stronger mothering instincts. Sometimes too it is the quietest cow in the herd that turns evil after calving and attacks her minder. The answer to both the very wild animal and the lady who goes ballistic on calving, is to get rid of them. No second chances, there are lots of replacement cows out there. There is only one you. Across the breeds the Limousin Society has puts its collective hand up and declared that it is in the process of promoting the docile strains within the breed. But every farmer will tell you that the Limousin breed does not have the monopoly on wild, hard-to-handle cattle. Individual animals within the Salers, Simmental, Charolais, Angus, Shorthorn breeds can be troublesome. The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation scored Hereford bulls in the March 2006 sale from Tully and some of the figures were very low. In their 2006 Sire Catalogue the Irish Limousin Cattle Society excluded bulls of below average docility where the figure had at least 70% reliability.
end quote

At this site, they describe a method of measuring docility:

http://muextension.missouri.edu/lawrence/ag/buybulls

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  #21  
Old 10/24/06, 01:58 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willow_girl
The producer I tested for this morning swears Durham daughters are kicky wenches.

Anyone share his opinion?
Durham and most out of the Della family are really witchy! I think BBK is a bad temperent daughters for ayrshire, and several of Duncan belle sons sire kicky daughters in the jersey line,
Rosanna, Put a ring in the bulls nose, and if he continues putting his nose down and pawing attach a four foot or so chain to it. Generally after stepping on it a few time they keep there head up unless carefully eating.
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Old 10/24/06, 11:42 PM
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Originally Posted by evermoor
I think BBK is a bad temperent daughters for ayrshire,
..Just Great, LOL...I used a bunch of his sons ...
Anyone know what disposition daughters of Ayrshire WILTON and Ayrshire CORNELIUS might lean towards????
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  #23  
Old 10/25/06, 07:25 AM
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Is this predominately a problem with AI bulls vs herd bulls?

Old family stories:

For a couple of years my parents had a dairy farm in Slinger, WI (early 1950s). My Dad was never one to have much patience (sp?). At that time they hand milked, Dad did one side and Mom the other. (She always finished before him. Apparently the cows let down their milk for her more readily.) Story goes Dad had a first time milker on his side who was a noted kicker. One day she did so, Dad went to the tool shed, came back with a sledge hammer and killed her in the stantion. Dad finished milking, the cows were turned out and he then used the tractor to drag her out of the barn to be slaughtered for beef.

Had a purebred Hostein bull (named Wayne, after my older brother). Not necessarily mean as high spirited (brother again). Had a nose ring - bull, not brother. One day he mock charged Mom and she hit him on the end of his nose with the pitchfork she happened to have been carrying. From then on that bull gave her a wide berth, but Dad still had to be extremely careful around him.

Same bull. A first calving cow was coming into heat. Bull spent all day trying to find her as she kept moving around/behind other cows in the field. When they were brought back for evening milking the cows went into their assigned stantions. The bull came in last. Rather than going into his stall he went down the milk line until he found her and bred her there. Dad said the bull had to pretty well squeeze himself between the cow and the ceiling but did just fine. Cow didn't have any other choice.

After the barn burned down at Slinger we moved to another dairy in Hustesford. After about a year there moved to Florida. I've often wondered where I'd be today if we hadn't. Likely a dairy farmer.

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Old 10/25/06, 10:27 AM
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I believe that if you want docile bulls, you need to actively select for it, whether dairy or beef. With all of the focus on milk production, bull docility in dairy breeds has been not something selected for. You have to cull ornery bulls, it's that simple.

I have a firm "one step" rule for bulls. If I go into a field near a bull and he stays still, or steps back, I'm happy. If he takes a step towards me in any way other than looking for a scratch on the head, he's hamburger. No exceptions.

I am able to intercept many of the potential outlaws as calves and steer them to the "pink veal" program, so I seldom have to deal with a mean bull.

Bull docility is becoming more of an issue these days of grass farming (more bulls running with the herd) and small herds in more populated areas. The average person today just doesn't know enough not to go into a field with a bull, or often even to know that they're looking at one. I for one would like to avoid unnecessary liability without giving up keeping bulls.

One of my favorite cow quotes is from Tom Lassater, creator of the Beefmaster breed.
"Nobody likes wild cattle, so why raise them?"

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  #25  
Old 10/28/06, 01:43 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Up North
..Just Great, LOL...I used a bunch of his sons ...
Anyone know what disposition daughters of Ayrshire WILTON and Ayrshire CORNELIUS might lean towards????

UH better start working with them a lot right now well before calving. Our only Wilton was shown but seem to be the typical ayrshire and is her own " auto-matic takeoff" , could be that she is rather blind and not treated fairly by the help, One cornelius is a sweety other is hamburger for multiple reasons including temperament. Worked with several headstrong daughters of these bulls for showing. Not all BBK's are bad, just many, like durham. Really pleased with the temperments of Trident daughters, and special K.
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Old 10/28/06, 08:00 AM
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All of our Trident, Lot and Gold daughters have really excellent dispositions. They all have good udders too. Our Jason cows are excellent in every way. We really enjoy those cows. Just freshened two Runaway heifers. We aren't too pleased with them. Disposition and udder structure are poor. Recruiter cows are good to work with but front teat placement is poor. Wandringeye daughters have really good udders, are fiesty heifers, but settle down to be really good cows once you get them trained. Skybuck heifers have show cow type, not very milky. Skybucks have some spirit but are workable. They will probably last a long time in the herd. Does anyone have any Swedmark daughters milking yet?

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Old 10/28/06, 08:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJ in WA
People talk about how mean dairy bulls are. So here’s some questions.

I assume dairy cow disposition is considered to be important. Is there a relationship between bull disposition and that of his female offspring? Or do you blame mean bulls on testosterone only? I wouldn’t think so.

If ornery bulls throw more ornery heifers, then why isn’t there more effort to weed out mean dairy bulls?

Seems if the bulls from other breeds are more gentle, the same could happen in the dairy breeds through selection. But maybe disposition is not considered in favor of milk production?
With regards to question one: I haven't been in the dairy business long enough to see whether female offspring of an ornery bull follows as far as disposition, but in general the cows are much more docile. For instance, with our Holsteins cows I approach them to sex their newborn calves all the time, with no trouble. However, there have been several folks around here, SW MO, killed by beef cows, when the person approached the calf.

Regarding question number two: According to Hoard's Dairyman, the dairy magazine, dairy bull aggressiveness is directly related to how they are raised. But I tend to agree as much with what other folks have shared here; genetics...etc.

CK
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Old 11/02/06, 02:08 PM
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 427

No question they inherit bad or good behavior. But like humans, there are exceptions. I seen entire herds of fence jumping cows, aggressive cows, docile cows (mine). But bad handing can make a good cow more aggressive and always assume the worse when dealing with a mother and calf. After a while you can usually tell when you are in danger with experience.

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