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E.I. Medical Imaging Portable Ultrasound Solution Blog

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 I am disappointed when I read these articles as they seem outdated, old fashioned and behind the times.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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