Determining pregnancy status of cows has many benefits to the cow-calf producer. As discussed in the first article of this series, a primary benefit of regular pregnancy testing cows is finding open cows. In most cow-calf operations, cattle are caught and processed through a chute or head-catch a limited number of times throughout the year. These instances provide an opportunity for you and your veterinarian to evaluate each cow’s phenotype (i.e. Body condition score, udder, foot and leg conformation, eyes, etc.), as well as their pregnancy status. Evaluating and recording this information allows you and your veterinarian to make more objective culling decisions, as well as identify patterns or trends in reproduction that may require corrective action.
Body condition score is an important assessment of herd nutrition. Body condition at the time of calving is one of the factors of greatest influence on rebreeding success. Measuring body condition at the time of pregnancy check can help producers and their vets make the appropriate plans for nutritional management prior to calving. For spring calving cows, additional protein and energy supplementation may need to be provided if cows are not in adequate body condition in the fall. In fall calving herds, grazing plans may need to be modified to ensure cows maintain or gain weight through the summer prior to calving in the fall. If problems with body condition score are detected at pregnancy check, changes in nutrition management may need to occur throughout the year.
Dentition may also be evaluated at the time of pregnancy check. Mouthing cows gives the producer an idea of age of the cow, if not previously known, as well as the amount of wear present. Abrasive or coarse forages may cause excessive wear on the teeth in cattle, and cattle may not be able to as efficiently consume forage or supplement if their teeth become worn. Monitoring dental wear can help producers ensure appropriate forages and supplements are being provided to maintain or improve body condition.
If problems with pregnancy rates are detected during pregnancy examinations, additional data can provide insight on potential causes of the reproductive inefficiency. This data can be evaluated for association with outcomes such as decreased pregnancy rates. Determining the influence that body condition or age of cow has on reproductive rates can help producers and their veterinarians make decision on nutrition or culling that can improve overall herd performance and efficiency.
For more information on body condition scoring in beef cattle, visit the following website:
For more information on aging cattle by dentition, visit the following website: