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Scan and Plan

Scan and Plan

Aidan Murray, Teagasc Beef Specialist outlines the Benefits of Scanning suckler cows, the cost involved and how to use the ICBF Expect Beef Calving Reports on ICBF HerdPlus online. Aidan recommends scanning as a good method to identify cows not in-calf now, so they can be sold off before the winter

Photo above: Credit FRS

Thankfully beef price is holding well and correspondingly store and weanling prices have been performing well and hopefully this will continue. On the flip side input and energy costs show no signs of abating so with a bit of planning we should avoid carrying any passengers through the winter.

People should at this stage to do a fodder budget and a partial budget on whether to hold or sell stock over the coming 6-9 months.

Equally as we move into September it will be at least 30 days since the last cow in many herds could have been served and so you should consider pregnancy scanning the cows. It offers so many advantages and its importance is elevated even further in the current climate.

Benefits of Scanning 

  • Firstly it will identify what is in calf and what is not. This will allow you the opportunity to take out empty cows, wean them that bit earlier and have them finished with some supplementation off grass before going into the shed. With fleshed cows making in excess of €2.50/kg liveweight cashing them in will make you money, save you money, reduce labour and potentially free up shed space. For those of you in BEEP S just make sure weighing and weaning dates are correct before deciding to cull any cows. Your adviser will be happy to clarify this with you.
  • For the cows that are in calf most scanners will be able to give you a good estimate of the number of weeks that each cow has gone in calf. This information will allow you to predict the cows due date which will influence how she is fed, when she is to be vaccinated, (if you give a scour vaccine). It will also allow you to predict the peak calving period so that extra help can be planned or when you may need to take time off work.
  • Provided cows haven’t gone over 12 -14 weeks in calf you may well be able to pick up if there are any cows carrying twins which will alert you to watch the condition of these cows in the run up to calving. It will also have you primed for what to expect at calving.
  • Some scanners may even sex the embryos if the cows are more than 50 days in calf.
  • It will sometimes show up cows that may be carrying an unviable embryo that for one reason or another is unlikely to go full term.

If the scanning reveals for example that more than 5% of your cows are empty then this may signify that there is a fertility problem in your herd. Maybe it was a bull issue or perhaps a mineral deficiency or a disease problem, either way, it should prompt you into investigating the issue further. 

By identifying when cows are due to calf they can be batched nearer calving time so that they are easier move to calving boxes/facilities.

Late calving cows can be restricted on feed to stop them getting overfat. Thinner cows, in-calf heifers or cows carrying twins can be taken out given additional feed if necessary. 

Scanning Costs 

Cost of scanning – Approx. €3-4per cow plus call out charge (€20 - €50). Rates will vary and may be dependent on the number of animals being scanned.

Using ICBF Expect Beef Calving Reports 

On the day of the scanning you need to record the Cow/Heifer number that is being scanned and record the number of days that animal is in calf or record if the animal is empty.

If the scanner identifies that an animal is carrying twins this should also be noted. 

Although this is all good information to have it can be made all the more useful if it is entered under ‘Record Events’ and selecting ‘Pregnancy Diagnosis’ in the on line ICBF Herdplus.

Once entered it will generate an Expected Beef Calving Report under the ‘View Profiles’ tab. 

The Expected Beef Calving Report will automatically give an expected calving date for each cow that is due to calf which is invaluable information.

The Teagasc Beef Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to Suckler and Beef farmers every Wednesday here on Teagasc Daily.  Find more on Teagasc Beef here  Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. Find your local Teagasc office here