I attended the 2021 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course in College Station. On the last day, Dr. Ky Pohler, associate professor, reproductive physiologist and native of Shiner, demonstrated various techniques to determine pregnancy in cattle.
Only about 30% of beef producers actually pregnancy test their cows in a timely manner, and improving that percentage would greatly improve profitability. Knowing if a cow is open before calving allows producers more options — get her bred again or sell and replace her with a bred cow.
Pregnancy testing can be conducted in a number of ways. Most pregnancies are determined by rectal palpation. Beef cattle veterinarians are highly skilled at palpation and are an extra pair of hands and eyes when working your cattle. However, there are more expensive and precise tools such as ultrasound and easier but less precise methods including blood test for pregnancy. Reproductive ultrasound will detect pregnancy at an early age, around 28 days or so, and can determine the sex of the fetus and detect twins between 60 and 80 days.
Since 2004, BioPryn, and then later IDEXX, have offered blood testing. BioPryn samples were sent to a laboratory while IDEXX was a slightly more complex chute-side test. Both are essentially “yes/no” (pregnant/open) tests, both are easy to use by producers and are cost effective.
Pohler indicated that IDEXX is releasing its IDEXX Alerty’s OnFarm Pregnancy Test this year. It is a “snap test” that requires about 100 microliters (0.1 mL or cc or 6 drops) of blood collected in an EDTA (purple top) blood tube and then deposited in an opening or well on the test device. In about 20 minutes, the presence of two red lines, regardless of how faint, will indicate a pregnant female. It is equally accurate on both cows and heifers.
The test likely will be offered for $8 to $10 each but will come in 25 tests to a kit, so it will not be less expensive than traditional methods, especially if more than a few need to be tested. However, if it gets you to test for pregnancy before weaning, then use it.