The importance on pregnancy testing in beef cattle breeding herds
The key to profitability for all beef breeding enterprises is high reproductive efficiency. This means aiming for:
- 90% calves weaned to cows joined
- An average calving interval of 12 months (one calf per cow per year)
- An ideal calving period of 12 weeks
Although these targets may seem optimistic beef producers must realize they can be achieved in our local area. However for them to be achieved reproductive management must be a key focus in beef breeding businesses. Pregnancy testing is pivotal in monitoring reproductive efficiency and detecting and problems early in the breeding cycle, so that the above targets can be achieved.
Although there are many advantages of pregnancy diagnosis for beef breeders some areas of importance include:
Identification of Infertile Females
To maintain 90% weaning rates there is no place for non-productive females in a breeding herd. Failing to identify these cows not only reduces the genetic performance of your herd, but also costs you money!! Unproductive females mean no income and reduce cash flow. The grass an unproductive cow eats costs you $3/head/week, plus the cost of unnecessary supplementation she eats and the vaccination and parasite treatments she receives means these freeloaders are constantly costing you money. The sooner these empty cows are detected and sold the better!!
The Ability to Target Supplementary Feeding
Pregnancy testing early (6 weeks after bulls are removed) allows producers to draft females into groups based on their reproductive status and their nutritional requirements. This allows us to best plan supplementary feeding programs in the most cost effective way.
Identification of Reproductive problems early reduces Economic Losses
The sooner infertility problems are detected and dealt with, the better!! Pregnancy testing 6 weeks after bulls are removed allows us to diagnose disease or bull infertility problems early allowing herd management systems to correct the problem as soon as possible to reduce the resultant economic losses. There is nothing more financially crippling than finding out in late Spring/Summer that females you had nursed through winter with expensive supplements and parasite treatments were not pregnant.
Improved Control, Prevention and Treatment of Reproductive Diseases
Diseases such as Vibriosis, Leptospirosis, Pestivirus can reduce herd pregnancy rates as low as 25%!! Early detection and vaccination programs at pregnancy testing can prevent huge losses.
Veterinarians are the best-qualified people to pregnancy test beef breeding herds. In Queensland pregnancy testing of cattle is still an act of veterinary science, however there are many reasons (other than legal ones) why is it beneficial for beef producers to have a veterinarian pregnancy test their herd:
Safety, Speed and Accuracy in Rectal Pregnancy Diagnosis
Pregnancy testing by rectal examination is a very safe and accurate method if performed by trained professionals. Untrained lay pregtesters can unknowingly cause unnecessary abortions in pregnant females and too often producers end up selling mid term pregnant cows to abbattoirs due to incorrect pregtesting results from untrained testers.
Early Identification and Treatment of Infertility and Disease
Having a veterinarian interpret your pregnancy testing results and learning your production system allows earlier detection of reproductive problems. If required disease testing can be done on the spot and possible bull breakdowns or nutritional deficiencies can be identified to help prevent the problem from reocurring.
On Property Veterinary Support
While pregnancy testing your veterinarian is available to provide advice on other beef production or farm veterinary related issues. This visit also allows us to provide preventative treatments and medications where appropriate to your animals without necessarily going on farm as the visit gives us a better understanding of your business.
National Cattle Pregnancy Diagnosis Scheme
The NCPD Scheme has been developed over a number of years to promote excellence in the skills of pregnancy diagnosis among cattle veterinarians. The scheme allows registered veterinarians to place tail tags on females depending on reproductive status allowing producers to gain best possible prices for their animals at sale.
Dollars in Your Pocket!
For a herd of 200 breeders costing about $2.50/head (with reasonable yard facilities) the average cost of a veterinarian pregtesting the herd would be about $1000. If we achieve our conception rate of 90% your vet will identify 20 non-productive cows.
If the vet wasn’t called, pregtesting not performed early after the bulls were taken out and these cows were carried through with the breeding herd till December when we realised they were not going to calve, they would cost us:
- $1440 in grass consumed ($3/head/week for 6 months or 24 weeks)
- Eaten nutritional supplements over winter for another $3/head/week equalling $1440
- Been vaccinated and treated for parasites during that time costing roughly $10/head of $200
The total cost of running these unproductive cows equates to about $3000 (and the cost increases if your conception rate drops below 90%!!) making the decision to ask your vet to pregnancy test your herd 6 weeks after the bulls come out, a very smart decision.
For local beef producers Vet Cross veterinarians are experienced and eager to work with cattle producers on farm to pregnancy test your herd and help you reach your herd’s reproductive goals. So please call and arrange a suitable time for us to come out and start improving your reproductive performance today.