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Thursday, March 26, 2015

#TBT How Do You Know When a Cow is Pregnant?

I am very excited to have my first guest post in the #TBT series.  This week's post is from Miss Julie Vrazel Tomascik of Tomascik Farms.  You can also see her adorable calves each week on Facebook. Did you know that ranchers check their cows to see if they are pregnant and there has certainly been an evolution in that area in the last several year.  See as Julie explains it. -A Kansas Farm Mom

All expectant mothers have one thing in common. The pregnancy test.  

And it’s the same for cattle.

As third generation cattle ranchers in Central Texas, my husband and I do things just a bit differently than our great-grandparents.

Okay. More than a bit.

Our great-grandparents would leave the bulls with the cows all year, which meant they’d have calves born at any time during the year. And that makes it more difficult to keep track of breeding efficiency.  And ultimately, cow productivity.

But we have more defined breeding seasons. Our cows are bred during a 90-day period in the winter or late spring. That means we turn the bulls out only during that time.

Enter the pregnancy test.

Our great-grandparents just waited (year-round) for calves to come after 9 months. But my husband and I are more efficient. We check for pregnancy, rather than waiting with uncertainty for 9 months.

Our version of the pregnancy test for cattle includes palpation, an ultrasound or taking a blood sample.

Palpation: It’s a manual examination of the reproductive tract.
Picture from UC Davis site.

Ultrasound: Uses the same equipment that medical doctors use for pregnant women. The pregnancy technician can identify pregnancy at an earlier stage.
Photo courtesy of Dairy Carrie who with her vet uses ultrasound technology to pregnancy check  her cows and predict the gender of calves before they are born.

Blood test: A blood sample is drawn and submitted to a laboratory.

So, we’ve become more efficient with each generation of agriculture. We can identify pregnancy and have a calf crop born within a certain timeframe, which makes marketing our cattle easier.

Do you have any questions that we can answer about the pregnancy tests?  We could probably have them pee on a stick and get the results just like humans, but I can tell you that cows do not pee on demand without the help of lasix.  I will also tell you (from experience) that when you are 7 months pregnant, it is raining outside, and 42 degrees, that waiting to collect urine from a group of cows that have been injected with lasix is not very much fun.  -KFM

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