Who's In Charge at the Chute?

Pregnancy testing cattle requires teamwork and a variety of skills.  Working cattle in good facilities with skilled cattle handlers, trained equipment operators and modern ultrasound technology is a rewarding way to contribute to the nation’s food supply.

Unfortunately, there are still some cattle outfits with inadequate facilities and poorly trained personnel.  Veterinarians are often asked to pregnancy test cattle in facilities where accidents and equipment damage may occur.  This is unfortunate and unacceptable in our modern world where beef consumers want to know that cattle are being handled humanely and staff work safely and are treated fairly. 

Veterinarians are often put in an awkward position.  I once told a client who had 800 cows that I would not pregnancy test for him if he did not get a better chute.  I knew him well and knew that he could easily afford a good chute.  I also said that none of the younger associates at the clinic would be allowed to work in his dangerous chute.  The rancher called another veterinary clinic instead.  He installed a new cattle handling facility the next year, but we never got the business back.  I hope today’s smart young veterinarians can do a better job of negotiating than I did 20 or so years ago. 

Here is a partial check list for discussion with clients.  This list could be sent out to clients in a clinic newsletter prior to the pregnancy testing season.  (Add other advice, protocols, and messages so clients are ready when you get there.)

1.       Does the cattle handling crew have adequate training?

2.       Are the chute and handling facilities safe? 

3.       Check gate latches, palpation cage doors, hydraulic pressure, and other parts of the cattle handling facilities prior to each use.

4.       Are the cattle properly restrained for each examination?


Is the ultrasound equipment and monitor positioned for safe, efficient, and ergonomic use?