Tips, Tricks and Techniques – Ultrasounding Cattle when it is Cold

By Dr. Andrew Bronson, DVM | Created on Tue Jan 10, 2017

Ultrasound pregnancy testing cattle on cold days adds additional challenges to an already busy and challenging job.  Below are a few tips and ideas from someone who has spent many a cold day chute-side.  (Yes, you folks in Florida and other warmer climates can skip this article.  Please send us your tips on how to beat the heat.)

How cold is cold?  Most of us don’t mind a little frost on the ground during fall work.  Some of my best days started standing on very solid ground.  It’s the 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15C) and colder that I consider cold, and there are special considerations to keep in mind while ultrasounding.  How cold is too cold?  Good question, I have been out at -13F (-25C) and everything went well.  I wouldn’t recommend going to all your clients at this temperature, as too many things can go wrong in a poor setup even on a good day.  Any colder than -13F (-25C), a little warmer if there is wind chill, and the LCD monitor will not function properly. 

1. Be prepared.  No one likes standing around on a cold day.

2. Have your ultrasound equipment fully charged and at room temperature on arrival.  Store in a warm place at night and keep inside the truck until the last minute.

3. Put your ReproScan or BoviScan unit in a backpack and hang at the chute.  It will stay warmer inside the backpack.  Consider putting a towel or other covering over the monitor bag to add additional insulation.  Keep the monitor protected from cold winds.  You may need to put some cover over your OJO Goggles. 

4. Have a bucket of “hot” water at the chute at all times.  Hot water?  Yes, bring a 5-gallon jug of very hot water with you and keep topping off a 5-gallon bucket at the chute.  Send someone to the house if necessary.  If you have power at the chute, use a bucket heater (1000 watts) , to keep the water warm. 

5. The warm water is used for 3 important things: keeping the frozen manure from building up on the probe cord, adding J Lube to the bucket for ultrasound probe lubrication, and warming up your fingers.  All are equally important!

6. Have J Lube available to add to the 5-gallon bucket of hot water in the instance of dry manure.  A sudden drop in temperature can dehydrate cows and this can make the manure quite dry and ultrasounding tougher. 

7. Ask the rancher to increase the quality of the cows’ diet with some better hay, cubes, protein blocks, etc. so the manure is loose for pregnancy testing day.  This takes about 36 to 48 hours to work through the cows’ digestive tracts if they have been on poor quality forage.  A 12” (30cm) diameter cow pie with a bit of a splat as it hits the ground will make everything work better in the cold and this includes the cows’ attitudes!

8. Warm clothes seems like an obvious one.  I find extra-large rain suits with lots of layers underneath to work well.  I wear chemical handling gloves and dip the gloves in the warm water.  I have rectal sleeves close by if I want to put my arm in a rectum to manipulate the uterus. 

9. A good sense of humor.  Another obvious one.  We wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t have one but really cold days and poor cattle handling systems can sure test one’s sense of humor.  Best wishes to all of you.  

If you have other suggestions to add to this list, please call us or email at inquiry@repro-scan.com.