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Pregnancy testing a good management practice

While the identification of open cows is the ultimate goal and value of pregnancy testing; economically, this management practice can provide a generous return on investment for cattlemen. When compared to the examination costs incurred by rectal palpation, ultrasound or blood test (costs generally ranging from $2 to 5, depending on the method used), feed cost savings at current price levels quickly justify the investment. Cows not recognized as non-pregnant in the fall and maintained until calving season may result in additional feed costs of over $200 per head with little additional gain to be marketed.

Unfortunately, only about one in five cattlemen utilize this management tool according to USDA, with use highly correlated to increasing herd size. Additional incentives as a source of encouragement for producers to include this practice may be the following advantages that can result as a consequence of pregnancy testing:

--Cows/heifers can be sorted by calving groups and managed separately to meet their nutritional needs.

--Heifers that are diagnosed "open" in the fall (spring-calving herds) have the opportunity to be marketed as feeders.

--Identifying twins through the use of ultrasound benefits in a couple of ways: 1) Need for extra nutrients; 2) Potential concern for calving difficulty.

--Treating lumps, dehorning or "tipping," treating for external and internal parasites and administering scour vaccines can be accomplished with one trip through the chute if within that window of opportunity.

--An accurate dosage of "pour-ons" is possible for chutes with a scale. In addition, knowing cow weights is beneficial when calculating wintering rations.

In cases where open rates are excessive, an immediate investigation into the potential causes can begin and potential areas of concern identified.

Non-pregnant stock cows may be economic liabilities to a cow-calf operation. Pregnancy testing not only identifies those open individuals; it creates an opportunity for cattlemen to accomplish several management chores at the same time.

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