FL Pen of Heifers

Preg checking feedlot heifers on arrival has long been an indicator of efficiency and animal welfare in the operation. Along with identifying and managing pregnant animals, it allows for a targeted use of pharmaceuticals in the group of heifers.

When it comes to preg checking options, extension arm ultrasound has been shown to be simpler to teach, safer for the operator and easier on the cattle.

Is your yard preg checking heifers? If so, are you using an ultrasound? If yes, when was the last time someone looked over the equipment, trained the person doing it, or evaluated the whole program? Well, if you are like most yards, you seriously evaluated the training and implementation of your ultrasound when it was purchased. However, how long ago was that? How many employees have you had run the machine since they were trained? When was the last time your equipment went in for service check?

It is very important to consider these questions occasionally. It might be time for you to take a look at your preg checking program, not just the protocol. We all realize that processing barns can be tough environments and that the equipment can take a beating. Therefore, periodically the ultrasound should be checked over. Long term wear and tear can cause reduced image quality. Reduced image quality can make it more challenging to detect shorter breds or accurately detect the open uterus.

I have had the opportunity lately to assist in many yard’s equipment audits and each one is slightly different. I have found, more often than not, that the team using the equipment has had little to no training on it. This means that there was little training with extension arm technique, pregnancy diagnosis, equipment care, and equipment handling. With employee rollover, it can be a lot like playing telephone—things get skewed. The first-generation employees on the processing crew may have had training but then when you get to be 3-4 turns down the line, it can be a different story. Simple things, such as charging and cleaning protocols, can affect the lifespan of the equipment.

I would highly recommend checking in on your processing crew to see how the preg checking program is going. Are you having calvers in the yard? Here are some things to look in to:

1. Has the person running the ultrasound had any training?

2. Is the machine quite old or have some damage to the probe that could be causing decreased image quality?

3. What kind of viewing device is my team using?

Ultrasound is a very beneficial tool that can greatly reduce the number of calvers in the yard and, therefore, increase the yard’s overall efficiency. So, consider checking in on your preg checking program. Here is my detailed recommended checklist:

Equipment Care

Don’t switch chargers. After time, charger bingo can be a real thing. The chargers that are sent with the machine are designed to have the correct rating for the machine. Incorrect charger use could cause overheating. Another good practice is to use a surge protector.

The probe head (grey part) is the most delicate part of the ultrasound because it houses the crystals. Therefore, it is important to check it for cracks, dents or other damage. I often find that, without training, the operator will drag the probe head against the chute. This causes damage to the probe head and reduces image quality.

If you need help determining the best (but practical) cleaning method for the equipment, I recommend reaching out to the company it was purchased from. Most companies will happily offer some tips and tricks for best practices.

Service checks

I recommend sending the equipment in once every couple of years, –or sooner if there are any concerns.

If you notice any changes in image or flashing, we recommend sending it in.

It is a good idea to check through chargers regularly to ensure they are in working order.

Team training

Depending on the rollover, I recommend periodic training meetings.

If you do not have someone in house who is comfortable offering this training, one resource is ReproScan (repro-scan.com/training). We offer numerous bovine repro training courses across the US. If it it makes more sense to have a trainer come to you, we can put you in contact with someone as well.

Remember, your pregnancy diagnosis program is reliant on the individual reading the image. Therefore, if you have experienced rollover in your processing crew, it is very beneficial to evaluate the quality of the image from the machine and the ability of the technician evaluating the image.