Pregnancy scanning cows and ewes gives small acreage farmers inportant information for planning farm management over the coming season.
Belle Baker learned how to artificially inseminate and pregnancy test cattle in her twenties. Back then, it involved long gloves and a lot of intimacy!
Today, as one of the services offered by Adelaide Hills & Fleurieu Farm Services, Belle has a special scanning prod she uses to test your animals.
The problem with hand-testing animals, in which your arm goes through the rectum and up and over the top of the cervix, is that while it can be accurate if you do it a lot, after six to eight weeks from gestation, the fetus of the calf falls forward over the pelvis. This means it’s very hard to get your arm in and pregnancy is easy to miss.
Experienced scanners can still tell but the average farmer or younger vet is likely to have limited ability to determine pregnancy in these later stages.
Pregnancy Scanning With A Probe
When you engage us to conduct pregnancy scanning, we use a probe which has a sensor attached at the end and it conducts what might be understood as an ultrasound.
We still go in through the rectum in cows but it’s slightly different in sheep because we don’t go in the rectum, we actually come up on the side of the abdomen.
In both cases we are creating an image of the cervix and looking for signs of pregnancy.
We look out of an umbilical cord, maybe a heartbeat and the corpus luteum. The key thing is that if we discover two signs of pregnancy, we can typically call it with accuracy.
Detecting twins is a different challenge, typically undertaken by experienced vets but what we can do is provide an accurate assessment of whether you have a pregnancy, or not.
Is Your Animal Dry?
Discovering if your animals are pregnant is one thing but discovering whether they are dry is also important.
For example, with cattle, if you’ve had a bull in there for say a six to eight week period and you’ve pulled them out, then you’ve done your pregnancy test and you find that half your herd is still dry (they’re not pregnant), then you can determine whether or not you’ve got a problem with your bull.
Maybe you need to make an assessment as to whether you want to get another bull in and get these cattle pregnant this year, or whether you’re willing to go with that and sort another bull for next year.
You’re also in a better position, after pregnancy scanning, to decide what to do with your dry stock like sorting them into a different pasture on a different feed regime to feed them up and get rid of them.
Depending on your plans, the wise decision might be to sell them off so they’re not using valuable resources on your property; there’s not much money to be made from dry animals.
Furthermore, if you think the problem was the bull, you might be able to invest in artificial insemination, once you’ve made sure it wasn’t a health issue with your “ladies”.
From my experience, when you choose AI, I always recommend that you do two different AIs. You put two lots of straws in along with a cover bull, making sure you have a program that has gotten the cattle to cycle at the right time.
Pregnancy Scanning On Small Acreage Farms
The key thing with our smaller acreage lifestyle farmers, people who maybe have a herd of 50 or so, is to manage that herd in a way that is efficient.
Instead of reacting to developments, you can be proactive and apply some science to what you are doing.
For example, one client booked us to scan about 20 cattle. It was the first time they’d ever had scanning done.
They were prompted to do this because they have one heifer with a huge personality, which manifests itself in destroying fencing. It ignores electric fences, in fact, fences of any kind.
So they requested scanning so they can find out, once and for all, whether she’s pregnant this season because, if not, she’s going to be moved on.
A final thing to remember is that we do not replace vets, we supplement your use of vets.
If there’s anything happening of any concern, that’s a job for your vet. But for peace of mind of measuring how many animals are pregnant, that’s where we can provide that first fast reading to help you start planning with confidence.
Make contact and we’ll discuss your situation.