Realizing the hidden benefits of pregnancy diagnosis

Pregnancy checking is a necessary run through the chute and can be used to perform many other procedures at the same time and obtain valuable information.

Be prepared for the day’s procedures and have all ear tags, vaccines, warble lice and worm control treatments and any other required supplies handy.

Farmers’ labour and the use of facilities are often not taken into account when calculating the cost of these procedures.

That is why timing them with pregnancy checks and being able to sort right out of the chute are so important.

Most chute facilities are set up so that at least an easy two-way sort and in many cases a three-way sort are possible. Why rework the cattle if you don’t need to?

Most veterinarians mark the cows with a chalk so that the open, late or cull cows are easily identified if they get back together again.

The method of pregnancy checking often depends on the veterinarian’s preference.

I think it is critical to wait for the diagnosis and then administer preventive shots and apply parasite treatment. The parasite treatments may still be given to open or late cows if you are going to feed them for a while.

This method avoids products being given to open or cull cows and prevents withdrawal issues.

Having enough labour ensures that the entire process isn’t slowed down. As well, the marketing avenue must be determined before deciding to treat.

Have your veterinarian present during one of the three main herd health procedures performed annually to determine the late bred cows and make a decision about them.

This is especially critical if the bulls were pulled late and you need to keep as many cows as possible early in the calving cycle.

The earlier a pregnancy check is done, the earlier decisions can be made. Heifers that aren’t bred can be fed and marketed.

Clostridial vaccines may be boostered and IBR and BVD protection administered during the pregnancy checks, depending on when they are performed. Scours vaccines can also be given if pregnancy checks are later.

IBR and BVD live vaccines are administered only if previous vaccines were given for these abortion diseases and this protective coverage is recognized on the vaccine label (the fetal protection claim). We don’t want to run the risk of vaccinations causing abortions.

Fall pregnancy checking is common for spring-bred cattle, and parasite control is often applied at this time.

Pour-on products are given for both external parasites and warbles, while oral dewormers are becoming more commonplace for internal worms.

Some oral products may freeze, so the outside ambient temperature must be considered.

As always, handle the products and administer properly so that the maximum protection is realized. Keep from freezing or overheating.

Pregnancy checking is a good time to perform body condition scoring because thinner cows can be fed better and probably put with the bred heifers in most cases.

Determining the open rate earlier will help producers decide how many replacement heifers to keep.

As well, possible causes of reproductive failure can be investigated if the rate is higher than normal.

Many other advantages come from palpating cows:

  • Veterinarians may find freemartin heifers (twins to bulls).
  • Cases of thin cows with kidneys may be detected as well as abnormal/small pelvic size.
  • Other conditions such as lumps and bumps, early cancerous third eyelids or early cases of lump jaw can be either culled or dealt with on an individual basis.
  • Lame or bad-footed cows may be examined and either dealt with or put aside if a tilt table is needed.

Make sure tags are legible. Check for radio frequency identification tags, especially on those destined to be shipped.

Some programs that use RFID scanning will highlight cows identified as culls because of wildness, prolapsing, poor udders, no milk, mastitis or difficulty calving. Some of these may be maintained until next calving to orphan off their calves.

It’s not a good idea to remove cows as they cycle or after calving season is over because of the potential for cycling cows to be ridden by heavily pregnant ones. This can result in young calves being stepped on and result in injuries, broken legs or death.

It is still best to check cycling cows because a certain percentage are recreational riders and cycle even when pregnant. It is why lots of pregnant cows are still shipped.

Pregnancy testing is a measure of management ability, and I am always surprised to learn that only 60 percent of cow-calf producers use this procedure.

The Beef Cattle Research Council has produced a seminar about pregnancy checking, which is available on the council’s website.

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