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Do Yourself a Favor, Pregnancy Test Early

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It’s that time again. Preg checking time. Pregnancy testing in beef cattle operations is an extremely important tool. As producers, you have the ability to increase profitability for your operation by strategically marketing open cows when market prices are at their highest and lower your winter-feeding costs by identifying and culling non-pregnant females before the winter months arrive. It is estimated that winter feed costs represent around 60 to 70 percent of the expense for maintaining a beef cow over the winter.

It’s easy to see how early pregnancy testing is certainly worth the time and effort when compared to spending $200-$300 per head on hay alone to feed an open cow through winter. If the cow or heifer is not working for you, send her down the road!

When scheduling your pregnancy checks, there are two different times during the year that can be most profitable. The first time would be 30 days after the bulls are pulled from the breeding herd. The second time would be when calves are weaned. These two times give you the advantage to market your opens at the best time, group females into similar calving dates, separate late cows off and sell them in order to uniform your calf crops and more. Another advantage, we can “mouth” the cows and determine overall body condition score during pregnancy testing.

Determining if a heifer or cow is “bred” or “open” can be done as early as 30 days pregnant by using ultrasound. Ultrasound is a great tool in order to evaluate the viability of the fetus, detect twins, fetal age, calving date, and possibly fetal defects. Determining fetal sex can also be performed using ultrasound between 55-80 days of gestation. Using a blood test only determines the pregnancy status of that animal and cannot determine gestational age or sex of the fetus. It may take a whole week for blood test results to come back, so results are not immediately known as compared to manual palpation or ultrasound. Another thing to note, if an embryo dies just prior to or shortly after the blood was collected, the cow may be labeled as pregnant when she is actually open.

Overall, utilizing pregnancy testing is a beneficial management tool to reduce production costs with minimal risk to the animals. Here at Dakota Vet, we are ready and able to help you with all your pregnancy testing needs. Give us a call to schedule a date!

Dr. Rebecca Whitlock, DVM

Midwest Veterinary Service

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