Even females that were confirmed bred earlier should be checked
The summer of 2018 drought was tough on both farmers and livestock in the Ozarks.
Thankfully, the rains have returned, and many producers made it through the drought with the help of their local extension experts, and plenty of hard work.
As calving season approaches, however, producers shouldn’t forget the importance of following up on the health of their herd after such a hard summer – post-drought pregnancy tests should certainly be on the priority list.
Even if a pregnancy test earlier in the gestation process came back positive, cows should be tested again after severe drought, and producers should be monitoring for heat signs that could signal a problem.
“Pregnancy losses are due to several reasons,” said Dr. Scott Poock, University of Missouri Extension veterinarian. “The first is increased internal temperature of the cow.”
“The early embryo is sensitive to temperatures above normal body heat,” explained Poock. “Early heat stress could lead to embryo loss right away. Those cows come back into heat on schedule.”
Hot temperatures affect egg quality and while the egg might become fertilized, during a drought the normal development can be compromised by the heat, resulting in the death of the embryo.
Poock also noted that bulls can be affected by the heat as well.
“Heat decreases sperm quality, which leads to decreased pregnancies,” he said.
There are some different techniques for preg checking cows, including rectal palpitation, which is the most commonly used method, ultrasound and blood tests.
“Pregnancy and stage of gestation can be determined using ultrasound or rectal palpation,” explained Dr. Heidi Ward, assistant professor and veterinarian with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. “Although a blood test can confirm conception, it doesn’t necessarily mean the animal is pregnant, especially for first-calf heifers that are at a higher risk of early pregnancy loss. Ultrasound is more accurate and can detect pregnancy as early as 13 days after breeding. Rectal palpation by a skilled veterinarian can detect pregnancy 35-45 days after breeding.”
Producers should consult their veterinarian to schedule their herd’s post drought preg check appointment, and to make sure their herd is up to date on vaccinations to present disease related abortion risks.
Experts also say that preg checking females now also helps producers get a start on winter herd preparations.
Cows can also be sorted into groups, be it to meet nutritional needs of into age groups. Later preg checking can also help producers identify which animals will calve first in the coming calving season.
Deworming, vaccinating and tagging can also be preformed at this time.
Finally, producers can take the opportunity to determine which animals should be culled before winter because they are open, or have other culling factors present, such as feed and leg issues that may hinder movement in the winter months.