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E.I. Medical Imaging Portable Ultrasound Solution Blog

Are You Pregnancy Checking Using A Portable Ultrasound This Fall?

Posted by Jim Turner on Thu, Sep 05, 2013 @ 09:53 AM

pregnancy checking your herdI am an avid reader of Bovine Magazine, okay I have a confession, I am not a hard copy magazine guy as I like to get my news and information in the digital world using my phone or tablet.  We pay very close attention to what is happening in the bovine veterinary world as a large portion of our target demographic comes from the bovine veterinary market.  In fact, we currently have a campaign to help the veterinarian with their practice in the bovine market in both the beef and dairy segments.  Our campaign is about, "Helping your practice makes perfect sense." We feel a responsibility to help the veterinarian with their everyday practice to insure they are getting the most from our Ibex® Portable Ultrasound System.

In a recent article produced by Dave Sparks, DVM of the Oklahoma State University Extension, he brings up why food animal veterinarians should be pregnancy checking their herds now instead of waiting later.  His points I want to highlight include the following:

  • Far too many small to midsized cattle producers are saving pennies by not pregnancy testing while wasting dollars by not knowing which cows are open.

  • The old standby for pregnancy checking is rectal palpation.  In this procedure the veterinarian enters through the rectum and palpates the reproductive tract through the rectal wall.

  • Ultrasound will detect earlier pregnancies than most operators can detect confidently by rectal palpation and also may show pathological conditions that rectal palpation may miss. (emphasis added)

  • A disadvantage is that it will take several days to be notified of the results so you probably will need to re-gather the cows to sort off the open ones.  Another disadvantage is that it only tells you if the cow is pregnant or open and gives no indication of how far along the pregnancy is.  Rectal palpation and ultrasound will indicate fairly closely what stage of pregnancy the cow is in. (emphasis added)

For obvious reasons we would love all producers to be pregnancy checking their herds using the ultrasound method instead of using either the palpation method or using the blood test method.

Addressing each point above I can say that the first of his points is a common sense approach to handling your herd.  Anytime you are not pregnancy checking your herd, you are rolling the dice as to whether your cows are open. Spending money on cows that are open and will not be producing a return on investment is a gamble. I should point out however that it is a cost and one that has to be weighed with all the other factors of managing the herd for the best return.

Ibex® Customizable Extention (I.C.E.)In point two, I thought it important that we address the idea that rectal palpation has a very similar procedure to ultrasound.  An ultrasound has the same rectal entry point that requires a veterinarian to check using their arm, but by using the Ibex® Customizable Extension (I.C.E.) handle, an "arm free" accessory, the procedure could be less invasive. The veterinarian saves wear and tear on the cow and more importantly perhaps, their arm.

In the third idea I have added some emphasis on the point that ultrasound shows some fairly significant differences to rectal palpation that are very important.  An example of a difference would be whether the fetus is a viable fetus. There are many chances to misdiagnose a pregnant cow using palpation when palpation or feeling a viable fetus is not usually possible by just feel. It is tough to feel a heartbeat.  Other abnormalities of a fetus, that may not be seen from palpation and only on ultrasound, may be missed and the pregnancy may turn out to be incorrect. In this instance seeing is believing.

In the final point, I have added emphasis to the idea that blood testing cows appears to be a cumbersome and time consuming process.  Time is not always the friend of the producer and something that needs to be weighed into the herd management plan.  The last emphasis in the final point is on the idea that blood testing cannot show at what stage the pregnancy is in or the gestation of the cow. This may be an important factor in the management of the herd. And it should also be noted that blood testing cows does not take into account false positives of cows that may have a fetus that is not viable or has an abnormality.  This is something that needs to be addressed in the decision making process.

It appears that Dr. Sparks would have us believe that using ultrasound for pregnancy checking cows is cost prohibitive to the producers and that this method might be too expensive hurting the bottom line for the management of the herd.  It was pointed out that regions and pricing varies, and we have not collected enough data to make a pronouncement of the costs involved in any of the processes mentioned. This is something that veterinarians and their clients should discuss.  It may be that palpation and ultrasound are about the same price, making more sense to go with ultrasound. The cost of blood testing appears to be less but by the time you add all the added process and the cost of shipping and waiting, I think it is a costly and not an exact process with a good return on investment. Until blood testing is more of a contemporary test providing real time results it does not seem like the best choice.

Our recent campaign is to help veterinarians and their practice. To us this makes perfect sense.  We would love to have you contact us to determine if buying an ultrasound makes sense for you and your practice. Right now in the month of September we have a program that allows you to buy an Ibex® Portable Ultrasound at never before seen prices.  If you are a producer, ask your veterinarian to use ultrasound on your herd. We want to help the veterinarian but we also want to help you!

Let us know, are you performing ultrasound, blood testing or palpating your herd?  Are you pregnancy checking your herd this fall?  If not, you might want to explore the opportunity to succeed.

 

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Tags: cow ultrasound, Bovine ultrasound, Veterinary Business, veterinary practice tips, beef cattle ultrasound, beef cow ultrasound, Arms free bovine ultrasound, beef heifer ultrasound, herd management, veterinary business marketing

Benefits of Using The Ibex® Ultrasound to Bovine Fetal Aging

Posted by Mia Varra on Fri, Jul 12, 2013 @ 04:00 AM

written by: Mia Varra and Dr. Paul Chard


beef ultrasound paul chardIn the heat of the summer when all your time, energy and effort is devoted to raising and bailing hay, combining corn, fencing and keeping clean cool water flowing for your cattle it's hard to think that it's time to start preg checking. But we all know how the time flies, especially in the busy summer.

Using ultrasound to preg check heifers and cows is an invaluable money making management practice for any herd. Finding females in your herd of cattle that did not breed early will completely pay for the extra cost of using ultrasound and allow you to make management decisions with those cull animals right now! 

Another benefit of using ultrasound to pregnancy detect your cows is increasing your knowledge of what's coming down the road. My husband and I started using ultrasound to group our cows in the Fall on corn stalk fields and winter pasture in smaller more manageable groups for calving. We sorted these smaller groups by determining the fetal age of the calf at preg check time. This allowed us to get the absolute most out of our low cost Fall feed and to have smaller more manageable groups to calve. This has proven to pay our cow-calf operation back in profit and labor. 

We've learned from trial and error that as our veterinarian, Dr. Paul Chard, preg checks using the Ibex® ultrasound, he calls out "Pregnant" or "Open" he also adds the fetal age so that we can sort them into pens as the cow or heifer comes out of the chute. This pregnant female will now be managed through the next 6-9 months by this fetal age group sort.

If you are a bovine veterinarian and looking to improve your knowledge and skills in fetal aging with your portable ultrasound, here are a few tips from Dr. Chard.

 

How is this information (i.e. fetal age) best used by the cattleman?


Most producers have recognized that reproductive efficiency has a very direct impact on their herd profitability. Many operations are opting for a shorter calving season (45-60 days). This helps to increase weaned calf uniformity and eliminate less productive individuals. These operations will often cull cows that will calve later and therefore wean a smaller and less valuable calf. It is essential to have accurate fetal ages in order to ensure that these culling decisions are based on solid information.


If you were training a veterinarian or intern how to properly fetal age, what steps would you go about to teach them?


The first step in learning how to properly age pregnancies is to gain a decent amount of manual palpation experience so that the mechanics of entering a cow and maneuvering around the anatomy is familiar. I firmly believe that the only way to establish that an individual is non-pregnant is to scan the entire reproductive tract starting from the cervix with the body of the uterus and down each uterine horn to the tip. Only then can you truly be sure that the uterus does not contain a pregnancy. This maneuver does require some amount of skill in manipulation of the reproductive tract. There is little value in providing ultrasound pregnancy exam as a service to beef producers if your accuracy of finding non-pregnant animals isn't 100 percent. Each pregnant animal that is misdiagnosed as open will cost the producer several hundred if not thousands of dollars, may cause an unnecessary loss of life and will get the veterinarian fired.

With a basic understanding of ultrasound technology, the trainee should then review captured sonogram images and videos to familiarize themselves with fetal anatomy targets of interest as well as what normal looks like in various stages of gestation. The trainee should also become familiar with gestation tables that are used for fetal aging in various stages of gestation.

bovine ultrasound fetal aging

 

The next step is for the trainee to actually ultrasound some cattle with the trainer observing the live ultrasound images. This is best done with the trainee using a portable ultrasound with the trainer observing by simultaneous wired headset monitor or by using a wireless monitor. The wireless monitor is truly the best and most efficient way of training as the trainer does not have any physical interference with the trainee but can give audible directions. The wireless monitor also allows an otherwise reluctant producer to observe first hand the images that the inexperienced trainee is generating. This is a teaching opportunity for the trainer veterinarian to build trust with the client and the trainee.

Initially it is easiest for a new trainee to start with cattle that are somewhere between 45 and 90 days in gestation so that there is a reduced amount of required physical manipulation and the entire pregnant uterus is easily reachable in the pelvic canal. Several hundred head of cattle are required for a new trainee to become proficient at fetal aging, but with proper equipment, trainee preparation and coaching the learning curve is very steep.


Why do you use crown measurement?


I use fetal head diameter to determine fetal age in most cases because it is the most accurate measurement across the widest range of gestation in cattle. The head is the easiest place to capture a consistent measurement of the same anatomical position on every fetus.

 
Does fetal aging require more time in each cow for examination? Approximately how long does it take to examine every cow?


Fetal aging does require more slightly time than just calling "bred/open". I argue that this difference is negligible if you are comparing "open/bred" to fetal aging while assessing fetal viability to ensure accuracy in both cases. Time required for a proper ultrasound pregnancy exam depends greatly on other circumstances such as ultrasound equipment, cattle restraint equipment, cattle temperament and cattle handling skills of the crew that you are working with. While wearing my IBEX portable ultrasound with InSite headset monitor the actual amount of time that I spend in the cow is somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds for a complete fetal aging and viability exam. This quite often allows me enough time to also operate my portable hydraulic chute and not be holding up the flow of cattle.


Any final comments or tips to give a ultrasounder that may be “guessing” fetal age instead of measuring or using the grid to age?


I use the full-screen grid for measuring head diameter for fetal aging with great efficiency and accuracy. I think that there is a great enough advantage in accuracy over guessing that I owe it to my clients to use this technology.

 More videos of bovine crown fetal aging ultrasound by Dr. Paul Chard:

 Bovine Fetal Crown

Bovine Fetal eye

Bovine fetal nostril and nose

Bovine Fetal Crown

Bovine Fetal Crown

 

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Tags: Bovine fetal aging using ultrasound, cattle preg check, benefits of bovine ultrasound, bovine fetal aging, beef cattle ultrasound, beef cow ultrasound, beef heifer ultrasound

Palpation vs. Ultrasound: Use Common Sense Economics

Posted by Mia Varra on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 @ 12:05 PM


bovine ultrasound heifer

It is summer time here in Nebraska and we recently began our breeding season, but I took some time to check out some of the latest industry publications that have piled up on my desk and ran across an article last week prepared by Oklahoma State University Extension titled, “Preg” check and cull replacement heifers early. After reading through the article I had to take a moment of time to put down some of my thoughts and opinions on the subject. I am disappointed when I read these articles as they seem outdated, old fashioned and behind the times. My opinion here carries with it some bias obviously, as I work here at E.I. Medical Imaging and I see portable ultrasound as progressive and cutting edge technique for ranchers and veterinarians practicing in the beef producer industry.

The article identified some basic and important points about the importance of culling heifers in a beef production process but I believe they are behind the times and not using common sense where innovation and technology can be used in management decisions. Using a different approach and more innovative technique will have even greater impact on saving money and running a more profitable cattle business! Looking at the article is specifically states:

“As the bulls are being removed from the replacement heifers, this would be an ideal time to call and make arrangements with your local veterinarian to have those heifers evaluated for pregnancy in about 60 days. In two months, experienced palpaters should have no difficulty identifying which heifers are pregnant and which heifers are not pregnant (open). Those heifers that are determined to be "open" after this breeding season, should be strong candidates for culling. Culling these heifers immediately after pregnancy checking serves three very economically valuable purposes.”

I would present another option using the technology and innovation of a portable ultrasound used by either the beef producer or by the practicing veterinarian. Their 60 day evaluation is not efficient and does not provide the best situation for heard management. Pregnancy evaluation can be done using ultrasound at 30 days post breeding. Using this preferred method over the referenced method means saving a month of feed by managing or culling the open heifer 30 days earlier. This is the best return on your investment or the other ROI, return on innovation. Using this technique of scanning with an ultrasound 30 days EARLIER than the referenced old fashion technique of arm palpation at 60 days provides cost savings of 30 days per head can be summed up depending on your region and yearly fluctuations of costs. As a simple example of today’s figures you can easily calculate an average of $2-$4/day of feed cost saved. Using the figure of 1000 head at a savings of $4/day with 10% open would be $12K saved in using ultrasound 30 days sooner than palpation!

Other areas that can be discussed using this more progressive and innovative technique of using ultrasound over the older practice of palpating your herd in your herd management are the extra benefits of detecting twins, fetal sexing and viable heat beat to name a few and there are many other management benefits. I am disappointed that this out-of-date information is coming from a university organization that should be publishing the most current and progressive information for our industry. In today’s beef industry we can use technology advances like portable bovine ultrasound to make a real difference in management and profit.

 

Written by: Mia Varra, E.I. Medical Imaging

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Tags: heifer ultrasound, benefits of ultrasound palpation, palpation compared to ultrasound, preg check beef heifers, Bovine ultrasound, Palpation vs. Ultrasound, beef heifer ultrasound

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