Why pregnancy test beef herds? Because you need to know!

Why pregnancy test beef cows?  Because you need to know… By Dr. Andrew Bronson


Back in the 80s as a young veterinarian, I was confronted several times by successful ranchers that said that pregnancy testing mature beef cows did not pay.  These comments went against everything that I had been taught in veterinary school.  And of course, I wanted their pregnancy testing business.  I spent countless hours doing partial budgets on keeping open cows over the winter and marketing them in the spring after calving season ended.  I have to admit that there was a positive margin for keeping that open cow around on many of these low input ranches.  But, there was usually a better margin if the open cows and late calving cows were detected earlier and replaced with pregnant cows or heifers.  This allowed the ranch to be fully stocked for winter with pregnant cows and pregnant heifers.   Why couldn’t I get these ranchers to see my point of view?  I was up against tradition, inadequate facilities, and peer pressure.  Until one day…


At a small gathering of neighbors, we had the above discussion once again.  Finally, a rancher that had been pregnancy testing his mature cows for several years spoke up.  He just said, “you pregnancy test cows because you need to know.”   That seemed to end the discussion.  In the next year or 2 all the neighbors began pregnancy testing their entire cow herds.  Why?  Because they needed the information.  They needed to know:  if their bulls had performed adequately, if their cow wintering program was adequate, if there were any nasty diseases like Trichomoniasis entering the herd, if there were too many late calvers.   And, they would improve the bottom line of their ranches by putting those cows through the chute once per year. 


I learned a lot that day.  It is often better to take a look at the big picture before getting into the minutiae of partial budgets.  It is also easier to influence people in the cattle business if you “walk the talk” and have some grey hair.  Well, I have got the grey hair now.  Hopefully, I can influence some ranchers to adapt technology such as early ultrasound pregnancy testing with fetal aging.  It is great information to have for herd management and it pays to know.