Those without a bull can either artificially inseminate or they can lease a bull. For some, the choice of artificial insemination (referred to as AI) offers them options in genetics to which they would otherwise not have access. To individuals fortunate enough to have the experience to AI their own cattle or who have a certified AI tech who can perform the task, artificial insemination is definitely the best choice. Occasionally there will be cows that just won't breed via artificial insemination, and then there are individuals who simply don't live in proximity to a certified AI tech. In these instances, live cover is the only viable option. This essay is intended to help the reader work through some considerations to determine if leasing a bull is the right choice for your farm or homestead, or if leasing your bull out to other farms is a viable option for you, depending on what side of the situation you find yourself.
1. Have you considered bio security issues?
Have you put forth the effort to buy animals that are healthy and free of disease? Do you maintain a "closed herd" so that you do not unknowingly introduce new animals that might bring temporary or permanent illness or disease to your cattle?
If you are proactive in regard to keeping a healthy herd, you will want to make sure that the bull you are leasing is healthy and disease free. Likewise, if you are the lessee, it would be wise to have documentation to the health of the cows being serviced.
2. Have you considered the possibility of injury or destruction to property?
Let's face it. A bull is a bull. No matter how docile a bull may appear, and although he may have never given the owner any trouble previously, there is always the potential for things to get out of hand. Introducing new animals to each other can at the very least test the patience of farmers. At the very worst, a bull can be destructive to property and dangerous to individuals with whom they come in contact. Almost without exception, when new herds are formed (even temporarily, as would be the case with combining herds for breeding purposes) there is a shuffle for hierarchy. While this is not a big deal to a seasoned farmer, it is something to consider if one is not use to it. There will be some struggles, some shoving, some pushing, some riding, and the bull will most likely be very territorial in trying to establish himself as may some of the cows. In all of this, fences may be tested, watering troughs may be head butted and flipped over (or pushed through fences), and gates make take some strain. Fences and facilities must be strong enough to keep a bull in his place.
In addition, on rare occasions, animals can be injured during the act of breeding or during times of establishing dominance within the herd.
3. Have you considered maintenance of visiting cattle?
Something else to keep in mind is maintenance of the visiting cattle. Regardless of if the bull is visiting off the farm, or neighbor's cows are being brought onto your farm for breeding, the health and welfare of those animals will be the responsibility of the individual housing them during the time of breeding. We don't all take care of our animals in the same manner, and one must be very confident that their animals will be cared for well when they are visiting other farms. It takes additional resources to care for additional animals. Sounds basic but it's something that should not be overlooked when giving consideration to whether the leasing of a bull (or leasing out a bull) is the right thing for your farm. In addition to the animal's nutritional and physical needs, will those animals be handled in such a manner as to respect your personal preferences. For instance, if you are strictly "hands off" in regard to your bull and have a bull that you have raised to be respectful of humans, you would not want to send that bull to a farm where they might do anything to compromise the bull's flight zone. You also would not want to send him to a home where using cattle prods on a good , compliant bull could totally change his disposition toward humans. I have seen otherwise good bulls ruined by people who insist on shocking them, hitting them, or intimidating them unnecessarily. In these cases, the bull you send away, may not be the bull that returns home to you. If you are an individual leasing a bull, it is important that you are willing and capable of abiding by the owner's wishes in regard to his care if his housed at your farm.
4. Are you prepared to make and sign a contract?
Contracts are especially important. Even if you feel that the person you are doing business with is your best friend, things can turn ugly quickly. The best way to avoid serious conflict is to have a contract in place that spells out exactly what is expected by both parties. The length of days the visiting animal(s) will remain, cost for stud service, cost for feeding and housing (by day, week or month), and whether the lease guarantees a positive breeding (or is expected regardless of whether the cow gets bred or not) are just a few things to consider in a contract. If your animal is registered, you need to specifically discuss if the owner is willing to sign off on registration for calves born to registered stock. You might want to consider a clause that exempts you from liability if any visiting animal(s) becomes sick or injured while at your farm.
5. Have you considered if your farm insurance will cover you in the event you are sued for damage should some unfortunate event occur.
None of us want to think that the worse will happen, but the best thing to do is to make sure that you are covered in the event it does.
Leasing a bull should never be done without educating one's self fully, understanding that there is always a risk involved, and preparing legally to protect yourself in the event things get out of hand. I am sure there are other things to consider that I have not mentioned, but this list is a good place to start. While I have highlighted a number of risks, with proper forethought and management, leased bulls can be a benefit to both the leaser and the lessee. The leaser is able to breed cows that they might otherwise have difficulty breeding and the lessee is able to offset her cost in owning a bull. Only you as an individual can carefully consider the pros and cons and decide if leasing a bull is the right option for you and your farm.