Did you know we offer ultrasound pregnancy checking at Downs and Smith Center Veterinary Clinics? Read on to discover management and marketing advantages over manual palpation.
One advantage is increased accuracy. If animals are ultrasounded between 28-110 days of gestation, the age of the fetus can be accurately determined to within 1-5 days. Veterinarians are frequently reminded of the heifers or cows that calve before or after we said they would, (usually due to clerical error!!! Haha!!!) ultrasounding reduces this problem greatly. Differentiating between AI’d animals and bull bred animals becomes much easier with ultrasound, making sorting into calving groups more manageable. Producers selling bred heifers, for example, can market AI bred heifers, 1st bull cycle heifers, 2nd cycle heifers, etc. Twin pregnancies, such as the one in the photo, can also be identified, and those pregnancies can be more closely monitored to reduce the likelihood of problems.
Another advantage is earlier pregnancy diagnosis. Manual palpation can be difficult less than 45-60 days of gestation, but with ultrasound, absolute confidence can be had by 28 days. Removing open animals, especially heifers, can save money and resources. Open heifers can be marketed as grass cattle and receive premiums, instead of the discounts typically received when they are sold in November or later as heiferettes.
In drought conditions, such as this year, open heifers and cows can be removed from the limited grass supply, saving it for the cattle that are paying their own way.
An ideal time to ultrasound cows is when calves are preconditioned. The whole herd has to be caught anyway, and open cows can be identified at that time, even if they aren’t marketed until the calves are weaned. This keeps open cows from eating the expensive and potentially limited supply of stored feed until traditional pregnancy check time, and allows for earlier marketing of open cows, possibly resulting in increased income.
Lastly, by ultrasounding and identifying open cows and heifers early, there is more flexibility on when to give pre-calving vaccinations. Scour vaccine can be given 30-45 days prior to calving, independent of when the veterinarian can get there, instead of giving them 3-4 months prior to calving, if pregnancy checks are done in the traditional October to December time frame. Ultrasounding may require handling cattle an extra time, but it helps optimize the timing of pre-calving vaccinations to reap their full benefit.
Ultrasounding is not perfect for every situation, but it can be useful tool to utilize, especially for heifers and for times when grass and/or feed supplies may be limited. Now is the time to get on the schedule if you are considering this management practice. As always, if you have questions, problems, or would like to learn more about pregnancy ultrasound, feel free to give us a call!