Skip to content

Getting the most out of pregnancy testing

January/February 2019

Matthew Lieschke Senior Agriculture Advisor

Cattle in paddock

Pregnancy diagnosis (testing) provides powerful information that can help manage beef herds more efficiently. One of the major advantages is that it enables you to identify the dry cows early and get them out of the system.

Based on $500/tonne for hay it costs around $120/month just to maintain a 500kg dry cow, so you don’t want her hanging around any longer than necessary. Without pregnancy testing the cow won’t be identified as dry until the end of the calving period. As such, pregnancy testing represents a major saving in feed costs.

Selling dry cows also means you are culling the less productive females from the herd, which will have ongoing benefits for years to come.

Foetal aging however is far superior to simple pregnant-or-empty diagnosis and is where producers can get maximum benefit from the exercise. With foetal aging skilled practitioners can identify which cows conceived early and those that conceived late in the joining period. Therefore, all of a sudden you have three groups identified:

  1. Dry cows: these can be sold immediately / once calves are weaned
  2. Late calvers: these cows can be sold as ‘PTIC’ if autumn turns out to be dry and further destocking is required.
  3. Early calvers: these cows are proven performers. They are your most fertile females, will calve down early and are most likely to get back into calf.

Rectal palpation and ultrasonography are the two common pregnancy testing methods that are used. Accurate diagnosis can be done as early as 5 -6 weeks after the bulls are removed. The precision of foetal aging becomes more difficult as pregnancy progresses, so make sure you book in early!