Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica (2007-11-01)

Joint disorder; a contributory cause to reproductive failure in beef bulls?

  • Ekman Stina,
  • Söderquist Lennart,
  • Persson Ylva

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 49, no. 1
p. 31


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Abstract The lame sire, unsound for breeding, can cause substantial economic loss due to reduced pregnancies in the beef-producing herd. To test the hypothesis that joint disorder is a possible cause of infertility in beef sires, right and left hind limb bones from 34 beef sires were examined postmortem to identify lesions in the femorotibial, femoropatellar (stifle), tarsocrural, talocalcaneus, and proximal intertarsal (tarsal) joints. The bulls were slaughtered during or after the breeding season due to poor fertility results. Aliquots of the cauda epididymal contents taken postmortem from 26 bulls were used for sperm morphology evaluation. As a control, hind limbs (but no semen samples) from 11 beef bulls with good fertility results were included. Almost all infertile bulls (30/34) had lesions in at least one joint. Twenty-eight bulls (28/30, 93%) had lesions in the stifle joint, and 24 (24/28, 86%) of these were bilateral. Fourteen bulls (14/30, 47%) had lesions in the tarsal joint, and 10 (10/14, 71%) of these were bilateral. Four bulls (4/34, 12%) had no lesions, three bulls (3/34, 9%) had mild osteoarthritis (OA), 5 (5/34, 15%) moderate OA, 17 (17/34, 50%) severe OA and 5 (5/34, 15%) deformed OA. Almost all OA lesions (97%) were characterized as lesions secondary to osteochondrosis dissecans. All the bulls with satisfactory sperm morphology (n = 12/34) had joint lesions, with mostly severe or deformed bilateral lesions (83%). Consequently, the most likely cause of infertility in these 12 bulls was joint disease. Almost all control bulls (10/11) had OA lesions, but most of them were graded as mild (55%) or moderate (36%). None of the control bulls had severe lesions or deformed OA. We suggest that joint lesions should be taken into consideration as a contributory cause of reproductive failure in beef sires without symptoms of lameness.