Heat stress reduces conception rate to 30-35 percent and can result in fetal loss during the early stages of pregnancy. Pregnancies can be lost between days 25-45 due to heat stress. Both of these factors lead to low pregnancy rates.
This year, our lesson appears to be heat stress. Pregnancy rates are low so far pretty much across the board.
This is the perfect year to sell those cows that fail to conceive and those that keep calving late in the calving season. Pregnancy evaluation in cattle is an important and valuable management tool. Checking the pregnancy status of your cow herd allows you to make timely culling decisions and focus your resources on the sound, reliable breeders in the herd.
I hope “preg checking” is an annual ritual for your herd. If you have not incorporated this management practice in the past, the dry conditions this year during the breeding season and the need to get rid of a few cows may force you to do so.
When it comes time to cull cows from your herd, pregnancy status is one of the first criteria that will determine whether a cow stays in the country or goes to town.
According to the results of a survey, fewer than 20 percent of beef cow calf producers used pregnancy testing or palpation in their herd. However, the benefits of this practice are fairly simple to realize.
Pregnancy diagnosis allows producers to identify “open” or nonpregnant cows. Compare the roughly $5 per head cost of a pregnancy exam with the $100-200 per head cost of hay alone to feed an open cow through the winter. It’s easy to see that pregnancy testing quickly pays for itself.
If the herd needs to be culled and pregnant cows need to be sold, knowing the pregnancy status of the cows will be appealing to potential buyers. Buyers will be looking to purchase cows that will calve closely in line with the cows already in their own herds.
Pregnancy diagnosis is a quick and simple procedure that requires an experienced veterinarian.
Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/ natural resources.