According to Jude Capper, a sustainability consultant and adjunct professor at Washington State University, 90% of the U.S. cowherd has a calf each year. In Argentina, that number is 50-60%. By increasing the pregnancy rates in our cattle, we also increase our efficiency and improve the sustainability of the beef industry.
Certainly, preg-checking saves money and is an excellent management tool for selecting cull cows. However, few take advantage of this benefit. Ohio State University's Michelle Arnold says that, “According to a 1997 National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) survey, only one-fifth of cow-calf producers have their cows checked for pregnancy although the benefits easily outweigh the cost. The most obvious benefit of knowing which cows are open is cost savings. A pregnancy examination will typically average $5/head but carrying an open cow over the winter may cost several hundred dollars in hay alone (not to mention mineral, supplemental feed, vaccines and dewormers that add additional carrying costs). Knowing which females to sell allows one to make good marketing decisions.”
Preg-checking is a management tool we utilize each year in our operation, so it surprises me that many cattlemen don’t use this practice. It certainly doesn’t make good business sense to feed and maintain an unproductive cow over winter. Sure, you may be forgiving to a cow that is late or a quality donor heifer that comes up open, and you may have a fall-calving herd that these females can naturally move to, but checking for pregnancy is an expense that can save a cattlemen hundreds of dollars.
A few weeks ago, we preg-checked our cowherd (see a photo gallery here) and found we had around 8% that were open. It’s always tough to sell these cows, and then there’s the added consideration of whether to feed these females longer or sell them immediately. We chose the latter in order to keep feed and hay costs down, but there is certainly value in increasing white fat in cull cows, too.
You can view a gallery from our preg-checking day here: NEW Photo Gallery: The Value Of Pregnancy-Checking Cows.
Do you pregnancy-check your cows? How were your conception rates this year? Did this summer’s heat and drought conditions play a role in lowering your pregnancy rate?