Wordless (Wordy) Wednesday: Pregnancy Checking Heifers


My dad is in the cattle marketing business. Sometimes this means he’ll act as a cattle broker and help other producers find/sell quality cattle. We’ll often do this to help keep high quality cattle in our neck of the woods and it’s a win-win for everyone. Last week we had 70 head of heifers changing hands and needed to check the pregnancy status in order to finalize the deal.

In a normal cattle herd, one can expect a 90% conception rate, 85% on heifers is considered pretty good. Good management practice is to cull out those cattle who do not breed in order to improve the gene pool for herd fertility. About half of the heifers that never breed on the first go-round will likely remain barren. The goal of a cow-calf herd is for each cow to produce a calf each year, so determining pregnancy status around 90-100 days of gestation is an important management tool.

Our veterinarian came out to do the pregnancy checking via palpation.

He uses an ultrasound machine to better determine the stage of gestation. Using this he can also detect twins or problems in gestation earlier with a visual image compared to palpation alone.

One heifer balked at the head gate and stood again the back gate of the chute. She decided to kick the gate and it sounded more like a rapid-fire rifle going off. At least 5 kicks in the blink of an eye. You should have seen the vet’s eyes as he was standing at the gate ready to enter the chute….

Me working the hydraulic chute. Never missed a head and worked hard to keep any heifers from entering too fast. Glamorous shot I know, but I did good even getting dad to turn on the camera. Here I’m watching the ultrasound screen. It’s gets pretty easy to figure out what you’re looking at after a few minutes.

The rest of the help… er, crew standing by

More heifers waiting calmly to enter the chute. After processing more than 1,000 head everyday during my time in the feedyard, working 70 heifers in a good facility seems like a breeze.

After palpation, the bred heifers returned to the pens, peacefully grazing until time to load in the trailers to move to a new home.

We ended up with only 7 open heifers, almost 10%. So I’d call that a successful breeding season considering the dry and hot summer we had.

Have any interesting stories about pregnancy checking cattle or working with the vet?

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