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Will the benefits of pregnancy scanning cows far outweigh the cost?


Is it at least 30 days since the last cow in your herd could have been served? If your answer is yes, then you should consider scanning your cows. It offers many advantages and is a vital tool used on well managed herds around the country. Catherine Egan, Teagasc Beef Specialist talks scanning here

Photo above: Credit to FRS

Why scan cows? 

It will identify which cows are in calf and cows that are not in calf. This will allow you to cull empty cows instead of expecting these cows to calve next year.

Most scanners are able to give you a good estimate of the number of weeks that each cow has gone in calf. This is extremely helpful when a stock bull is used on the farm and it can be difficult to identify expected calving date.  You can use this information to predict the cows due date which will influence how she is fed and when she is to be vaccinated.

Scanning allows you to pen cows according to their predicted calving date and pen late calves together.

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 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.

These predicted late calvers could be selected for culling next year when their calves have been weaned.  It is also possible to cull these predicted late calvers by selling them at the mart now or prior to calving.

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.

In the video below, Teagasc adviser, David Argue, outlines the benefits of pregnancy scanning suckler cows. He also outlines the importance of getting the timing right & the need for good facilities for human & animal safety.  

What should I consider before selling cows that are not in calf?

Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Sucklers  (BEEP-S)

If you participate in BEEP-S and have weighed the cow and calf pair and you have selected the meal feeding option you cannot sell cows until calves are weaned properly. Calves must be offered concentrates 4 weeks before weaning and 2 weeks post weaning. Cows can be sold post weaning.

Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) 

If you participate in BDGP II (2017-2022) or the BDGP extension on the 31st of October 2022 you must have 50% of the reference number of animals, genotyped 4 or 5 star on the Replacement Index. You must ensure that any cow that you cull is not required to help you meet this requirement.

If you sell a cow & calf pair the data collection component will not be completed. This will result in a pro rata reduction for that component of the payment.

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