Unfortunately, many bulls are developed in an aggressive manner, which often causes acidosis or subacute acidosis and can lead to feet problems, fertility issues and reduced longevity. In order to push yearling weights or have the bulls fat for sale time, high-concentrate rations are commonly fed. When this is done poorly or without consideration for rumen health, it can lead to several problems, some of which don’t show up until after the bulls have been purchased.

Banta jason
Associate Professor and Extension Beef Cattle Specialist / Texas A&M University

Precipitation map

I often hear producers say that the bulls were developed on a high-fiber ration, but what does this really mean? It often doesn’t mean what you might initially think. A high-fiber ration is not necessarily the same thing as a high-roughage ration. Roughage is a collective term used for forage, hay and other effective fiber-based feedstuffs that cause cattle to chew their cud and help maintain rumen pH and health. Feed ingredients like soybean hull pellets are high in fiber, specifically neutral detergent fiber (NDF), but they provide very little or no roughage value.

To help avoid problems, it is important to gradually increase grains and other readily fermentable carbohydrate-based feedstuffs to allow the rumen microbial population to adjust. This will help reduce acidosis and subacute acidosis. Additionally, a minimum amount of roughage should be maintained in the diet. Hand-feeding bulls and gradually increasing the amount of concentrate in the diet is one way to adjust bulls to a higher-energy ration.

Many producers like to use bulk feeders when developing bulls. This can be dangerous if not done correctly. If this approach is taken, it is critical to use a well-researched limiter and work with a company nutritionist who is familiar with the product and the research data.

Unfortunately, I have seen several sales advertise that the bulls are developed on grass or a high-forage-based ration. However, after completing the grass portion of the test, the bulls are put on a bulk feeder with very limited roughage or nothing to control intake.


Make sure to ask questions about bull development before buying your next bull. If bulls are not developed in a manner to meet your operational goals, it might make sense to buy weaned bulls and develop them how you like. end mark

Jason Banta
  • Jason Banta

  • Associate Professor and Extension Beef Cattle Specialist
  • Texas A&M University
  • Email Jason Banta