By Hilary Parker
Are you still sitting on the fence, trying to decide whether to invest in an IBEX® portable ultrasound? Fertility Management is about timing and decision making. Proper management techniques can ultimiately save a farm or dairy operation money. Can you make decisions with inaccurate information or untimely information?
Many fertility managers use blood testing for for their management of their herd. We want to provide a better alternative or solution to blood testing your animals. If you do any fertility management work on farms, you should think about the following three reasons ultrasounds are superior to blood tests.
1. Ultrasound saves time: Using ultrasound lets vets and producers know if a cow is open or pregnant at the earliest possible moment. The IBEX® is a highly-accurate tool for diagnosing pregnancy as early as 25 days after breeding. Getting results from a blood test can be very slow (testing results can take up to five days). That leaves plenty of time for a producer to unwittingly sell a bred heifer or miss the breeding window of an open one. With blood test results arriving days after the sample is collected, there may be a second time to handle cattle required due to the results. This causes additional time and stress to the cattle.
2. Ultrasound saves money: Knowing what you need to know about a cow’s breeding status as early as possible means that the vet or producer may make decisions about breeding or culling immediately, rather than wasting money feeding and even vaccinating an animal that is ready to go to market.
3. Ultrasound makes herd management decisions easier: It also can alert managers to multiples, fetal viability and other reproductive tract conditions, enabling them to make decisions about the animal’s breeding potential.
Simply put, there are no substitutes for ultrasound. But don’t just take our word for it — ask Jill Colloton, DVM, Bovine Services LLC, in Edgar, Wisconsin. She states:
“With ultrasound, they get much more information for the same price — twins, fetal gender, ovarian diagnosis, pathology diagnosis, fetal anomalies, etc. — plus the convenience of less cow handling".
For example, Colloton notes that she can use her ultrasound to quickly find 95 percent of twins vs. around 50 percent for palpation.
Ultrasound also is superior when calculating fetal age, she says.
“Ultrasound measures the fetus itself rather than just the fluid in the amniotic sac,” Colloton adds. “Fetal size is very consistent amongst breeds and does not vary seasonally. The amount of fluid can vary considerably between animals, even of the same breed, and is reduced during hot weather.”
Then there’s its advantage when diagnosing reproductive problems.
“Subclinical metritis, differentiating tumors from abscesses, vaginitis, etc., are all much easier to diagnose with ultrasound,” she says. “In addition, severe fetal anomalies like schistosomous reflexus, large umbilical hernias, water belly, fetal anasarca, etc., are often identifiable when fetal sexing is done between 55-90 days of gestation.”
Of course, ultrasound is critical for identifying corpora lutea, or CLs, on embryo recipients, she adds.
“At 7 days post-heat, CLs, particularly in heifers, are small and soft so are very easy to miss by palpation,” Colloton says. “Hence, with ultrasound, we reject far fewer recipients, saving the expense of carrying them for more days than necessary.”
Not to mention determining fetal gender.
“My commercial clients use this information for cull decisions on marginal cows,” she says. “Registered breeders use it for marketing and planning.”
Colloton notes that her clients are thrilled to have her visit their farms.
“The veterinarian is actually a pretty cheap ‘employee’ because we show up only when needed, aren’t on payroll, aren’t likely to quit, have already been trained, can do accurate exams quickly and have the knowledge about anatomy, physiology and current reproductive research to provide the most ‘bang for the buck,’” she adds.