Improving Rockley bull fertility using veterinary bull breeding soundness examinations (VBBSE)

Improving Rockley bull fertility using veterinary bull breeding soundness examinations (VBBSE)

Rockley’s goal is to produce elite stud and herd bulls with the highest possible fertility that deliver advantage for our breeding and commercial customers. We believe in providing our customers with as much documented information as possible about the bulls they purchase, and this extends to the results of ‘veterinary bull breeding soundness examinations’ (VBBSE).

We make systematic use of VBBSEs to help us select and breed from highly fertile bulls. Combined with EBV genetic information, VBBSE results help us make breeding decisions that improve fertility and benefit our customers.

What is a VBBSE?

The veterinary bull breeding soundness examination (VBBSE, previously known as BBSE) was developed by the Australian Cattle Veterinarians (ACV) organisation to create a standard way of testing and describing bull fertility. The aim was to improve bull fertility right across the Australian beef industry.

A VBBSE records whether a bull satisfies standards for five key fertility components but it differs from BREEDPLAN EBVs in that it’s not a genetic evaluation of reproductive traits. Instead, VBBSE results indicate the probability of a bull being highly fertile based on its reproductive function on the day of the exam.

The five VBBSE components* are:

  • Scrotal circumference
  • Physical examination for faults in the head, legs, joints, feet, sheath and penis
  • Semen motility – the ability of sperm to move independently
  • Morphology – the structure of the individual sperm cells
  • Mating behaviour or ability
Improving Rockley bull fertility

Rockley breeding practices include a number of significant activities to increase bull fertility and we are confident that this will be reflected in improved VBBSE results for Rockley bulls.

  1. We conduct annual VBBSEs

Every year, we conduct VBBSEs on all our stud and commercial sires. We pay particular attention to scrotal size and only use bulls that are above 70% on a VBBSE using a crush-side assessment. We know that a bull’s fertility can change over time and that regular VBBSEs will pick this up. Further, we have chosen this criterion as it gives us the confidence and peace of mind that we are doing all we reasonably can to improve the Rockley product for our customers.

  1. We select sires with a larger than average scrotal size

When choosing the sires we wish to keep in a group of bulls, we select those with a larger than average scrotal circumference. This is well above the minimum standard set by VBBSE and, in our experience, large scrotal size is an accurate predictor of fertility, which is further indicated in semen testing.

  1. Scrotal Size and Days to Calving EBVs for our IVF sires

For the sires we use in our IVF program, we insist on EBVs that show an above average scrotal size (SS) and below average Days to Calving (DTC). We then monitor scrotal circumference until they have a VBBSE.

  1. We submit data to BREEDPLAN

We routinely measure and record the scrotal circumference on all our registered bulls and submit the data to BREEDPLAN. We recognise the increasing interest shown by customers in BREEDPLAN and EBVs and we plan to be able to provide BREEDPLAN information about our bulls before we are asked for it. Submitting data to BREEDPLAN also means we are contributing to the industry’s genetic knowledge of the Brahman breed.

  1. We grade our bulls as weaners

The physical part of a VBBSE identifies faults in head, legs, joints, feet, sheath and penis that could have a negative impact on fertility. We are confident that Rockley bulls will pass comfortably because we have been observing them closely since they were weaners. We make the time to score our cattle at weaning using our Rockley Brahman weaner grading system and careful inspection is carried out before their VBBSEs at the time the bulls are offered for sale.

 Is a VBBSE obligatory?

Only for bulls sold at auction, but some vendors choose to provide an incomplete VBBSE. If you buy a bull privately, we recommend you ask for a complete VBBSE. As seedstock producers, we at Rockley always do.

In my view, the combination of BREEDPLAN EBVs, our own visual appraisal and VBBSE results mean we make the best possible purchasing decisions that help us improve our lines of elite red Brahmans and, in turn, pass on good fertility to customer operations that purchase Rockley stud and herd bulls.

If you are considering a private purchase from Rockley, we will be more than happy to provide VBBSE results as we understand the value of this information to you. We believe that in due course it will become standard industry practice to provide VBBSE results when selling bulls, and we support this in the interests of the quality of the red Brahman breed in Australia.

For more information, please call me (Ashley) on 0408 780 810.

* Further information is available at

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