Benefits of using ultrasound

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This Tip of the Week has been brought to you by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association.


Ultrasound use has been a popular diagnostic tool for detecting early pregnancies, but the true benefit to reproduction comes from identifying open cows even sooner. A skilled ultrasonographer can identify a fetus and a heartbeat within 26 days of gestation.


Following the schedule for timed artificial insemination (A.I.) programs, most people who include ultrasound into their pregnancy diagnosis wait until after 32 days bred to check for pregnancy. The fetus is much bigger at this time and there is more fluid to help detect a pregnancy.


Ultrasound testing also plays a major role after diagnosing pregnancy.

  • Identifying dead fetuses - Most embryotic loss takes place prior to day 45 of the pregnancy. There can be many fetuses dead or dying during the time of the pregnancy diagnosis depending on when the pregnancy diagnosis occurs. Once dead fetuses are identified, strategies can be applied to resynchronize animals as quickly as possible.
  • Detecting small pyometras - Using a palpator to detect small pyometras (a uterine infection) can be difficult. However, using ultrasound, even a small pyometra can plainly be distinguished from an early pregnancy and strategies can be applied to return the cow to a fertile state.
  • Maximizing profits - Recognizing pregnancies and staging them precisely so that the dairy knows when to dry the cow is important to boosting profits. By applying measuring techniques to the fetus, the stage of the pregnancy can be anticipated with strong accuracy.

For more information, read The benefits of ultrasound in pregnancy diagnosis by Kevin McSweeney, DVM of International Bovine Training Solutions, LLC.

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