Q and A – why check beef cattle for pregnancy?

We recently sat down for a Q&A with Carl Bollum – Cattle man and BCF Sales and Service Manager for North America.

We recently sat down for a Q&A with Carl Bollum – Cattle man and BCF Sales and Service Manager for North America – to discuss the benefits of pregnancy checking in beef cattle. This should help give you some insight into how pregnancy checking in general can benefit your beef cattle clients and how ultrasound can make that benefits list grow even longer while helping you add precision to your services.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your cattle operation?


We have a 150 head purebred herd in which we focus on raising and selling breeding stock.

Q: What are the top 3 benefits producers can see by having a veterinarian check their cattle for pregnancy?

1 – Decrease winter feed costs on open cows
You can do this by identifying the open cows/heifers that aren’t bred or carrying a calf – so they aren’t fed all winter only to find out in calving season that they are open. The dollar amount for feed adds up quickly. Depending on the location this can amount to 60 – 120 days of winter feeding which at $2 – $4 a day will be at a minimum $120 per open cow/heifer – in many areas it will be more than three times that amount.

2 – Sort out late bred cows
Identify late bred and open cows sooner. You can then sort them from the regular herd earlier in the fall and not waste pasture. Especially if you’re not going to keep them – you might as well sort them off and sell them or put them in a feedlot to sell instead of running them with the rest of the herd on pasture. This helps maximize pasture management. Most pastures in the fall start to run out or the cattle have to travel farther for good grass – open cows are not going to gain much, if anything. Also, in most years if you sell cull cows earlier they will be worth more per pound than late in the season.

3 – Manage your calving season
With accurate gestational ages you can better manage your calving season – ultrasound provides much more accurate aging than palpation. Having these due dates makes it much easier to watch all the cows that are close to calving. You can group cows and get them close to each other in calving facilities to minimize loss. It also allows for a tighter calving window. If some cows are going to calve 60 – 90 days later than the majority of the herd, there are other decisions that can be made. For example, when weaning time comes the calves will be 60 – 90 days younger, weigh much less, and as a result be worth much less. Their mothers will have eaten the same amount of feed but will bring in less money than those calving earlier – meaning some herds may decide not to keep the cow.

Q: When you figure in a veterinarian using ultrasound on this pregnancy check what additional benefits do producers gain?


  • Fastest way to pregnancy check and the results are immediate – no need to wait
  • Most accurate for gestational ages to help sort into calving groups
  • Can identify the sex of the calf
  • Twin detection
  • For high genetic herds you can identify problem breeders and a plan to get them rebred

Q: What benefits does the veterinarian see when checking cattle for pregnancy?


  • They can provide better service for their clients through feed cost savings, better herd management and more manageable calving seasons.
  • More time with their clients and the ability to help manage their herd – ensure vaccinations are up to date

Q: What do veterinarians gain when they add ultrasound to this check?


  • More accuracy
  • Offer more services
  • Faster
  • Less stress on the veterinarian and the animal
  • If you use an introducer – you don’t have to use your arm

Q: Why would you personally recommend ultrasound for use on beef cattle?

It is much faster, easier on your arm, easier on the cow and the information you get is much more accurate.

Q: When would the ideal time for a veterinarian to purchase an ultrasound machine to use on beef herds?

I would start the search at least 6 months before the season starts. You want to give yourself time to compare machines to find what is right for you and have someone come out to show you the machine and its features. Then you’ll need time to purchase the machine – approval from clinic owners, financing approval, etc. We include training with our package purchases so you would want to attend a training course if you’re new to using ultrasound. That should still give you enough time to start offering services for earlier pregnancy checking rather than starting to check later in the season which is typical without ultrasound.

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