Bull fertility testing in Ireland
The diagnosing of the fertility of bulls is “an act of veterinary medicine”, Judge McNulty has determined following a hearing.
The Veterinary Council of Ireland initiated district court prosecutions against two individuals in respect of the carrying out of the practice of veterinary medicine whilst not being on the Register of Veterinary Practitioners, its annual report details.
Diagnosing the fertility of an animal goes to their state of health, pursuant to section 53 of the Veterinary Practice Act 2005, as amended, and accordingly comes within the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine, the court sitting heard.
The background to this matter is that the Veterinary Council received complaints from a farmer, who had relied to his detriment on a bull fertility test and certificate of fertility,
provided by individuals which were not on the Register of Veterinary Practitioners.
It was alleged, as part of the prosecution, that the individuals had engaged in aspects of bull fertility testing that can only be carried out by registered veterinary practitioners to include diagnosis and certification of the state of health of the animals.
Evidence to the court outlined that fertility assessment requires a number of elements, which may include a clinical examination of the reproductive organs, physical assessment and analysis of a semen sample.
“Whilst a lay person can take a semen sample, this alone is not sufficient for a fertility assessment,” the VCI report outlines.
“The layperson cannot diagnose fertility having analysed a semen sample or provide a certificate on the diagnosis of the fertility of a bull.”
“This can only be done by a person qualified and eligible to do so, being registered veterinary practitioners.”
The Veterinary Council stressed that it considers the investigation and prosecution as “a necessary and important action” to protect animal health and welfare and the public in ensuring only persons suitably qualified practice veterinary medicine.
Note – The above is included in the VCI’s (Veterinary Council of Ireland) Annual Report 2022.
Fertility of the stock bull is of “major” importance to both the size and timing of the subsequent calf crop, according to Teagasc’s Donegal-based agricultural advisor, Gary Fisher.
Infertility in bulls is not immediately recognisable in that symptoms/signs can take circa 2.5-3 months to show after insult.
Fisher has said that “very few” bulls, to the tune of circa 3-5%, fall into the infertile bracket, while a further 10-25% of bulls can be sub-fertile.
Moreover, it can take circa 70 days to produce sperm and a further two weeks to travel through the epididymis.
In many cases, it is only when scanning results yield a large volume of empty cows or the observation of the signs of oestrus in cows that should be circa 4-5 months in-calf that a potential bull fertility-related issue may flag.
Often on some enterprises, sub-fertile bulls go undetected until later in the breeding season, especially in a case where farmers do not strictly observe the herd or record data.
On these grounds, he advises farmers to “observe your stock bull the same way you observe your cows for AI”.
Read more on this news article, which looks at the cause of sub-fertility in bulls and its resulting implications.