Britt Whitt: Get those cows pregged
October 16, 2018
Fall work routinely involves pregnancy diagnosis of the cow herd. There are three pregnancy diagnosis modalities, two of which are commonly used. Palpation, ultrasound diagnosis, and blood tests are all available options. Palpation is the old standby, with this method a basic bred or open and some dating can be performed. Ultrasound is much more reliable in dating pregnancies in the hands of an experienced veterinarian. Smaller operations have begun using blood tests to determine pregnancy status. In my opinion a producer really cannot forgo some type of pregnancy diagnosis in the fall. From an economic standpoint, an open cow through the winter months, costs a lot. That same open cow has some return on investment if sold prior to putting feed and man hours into her only to find her open in the spring.
Working cows through the chute in the fall also gives a producer and veterinarian a very hands on look and feel of the cow herd. Potential problems can be identified that may not be picked up on in the field or on pasture. Bad bags, poor reproductive tract conformation, lost teeth, and failing body condition can all be more easily identified when the producer and veterinarian have the cow in a chute. This can help make culling and keeping decisions easier, and yes there will inevitably be the one eyed, two titted, ranker than your mother in law, cow that raises the 800 pound calf. We try not to judge you for keeping her!
It's not just the cow's job that is evaluated during fall preg checking. New pastures, new bulls, new management, all of these things need to be considered when finding your percent bred versus open. A mother cow is only half of your equation when it comes to creating a calf. Assuming you fertility tested your bulls in the spring and everything was found to be in working order. If we come upon a lower than expected bred percent we have to question those bulls' work ethic and the terrain they needed to cover to find cows that were actively cycling. It helps give you an idea of what needs to be changed or revaluated next year for more success. On the positive side of this, if you find yourself with an excellent breed up rate, you can rest assured you're covering your bases and your program is working well.
Dating of pregnancies can be very important as well. As I said earlier ultrasound is going to be much more reliable when it comes to accurately dating a pregnancy. Being able to sort heifers and cows into management groups based on their calving dates will help lower your hours input, reduce your infectious burden, and give you some peace of mind when calving season blows in. It also allows you to feed those cattle more efficiently, saving your hay resources, time, and energy. At the end of the day dated pregnancy diagnosis, either palpation or ultrasound seems like money in the bank in the long run. Here's to sunny days of pregging and lots of bred cows!