We artificially inseminated our herd in December and January. There have been a few stragglers that were bred in February, and it\'s almost time to start pregnancy checking our cows once again. Since we have a fall calving herd, one very important task is the annual spring pregnancy check. It\'s not something I really look forward to because the work is hard, it takes much of the day, and sometimes the cows act crazy, but it is an important part of our herd assessment.
Checking for Open Cows
Pregnancy checking lets us know right now which cows have been bred and which cows are open. At this point, our cows have had plenty of opportunities to be bred. They were bred by AI once, and some of them were bred twice if they came back in heat. Then we turned the clean-up bull in with them. If there\'s a problem with their breeding, we need to know it now, so we can sell them before they help eat up our green summer grass. Every cow that doesn\'t have a calf will cost us money in feed and veterinary supplies, so we need to know that before we head to the sale yard.
Pregnancy checking also is a tool to help us keep all our cows calving on time. This year, somehow, we ended up with a couple cows calving in the bitter cold of January. One of those calves really struggled in the cold, and it cost us a couple hundred dollars in medicines and veterinary bills. Next year, we don\'t want any late calves, and culling the cows that aren\'t bred now will help us avoid that fiasco.
Another thing that we can do while we are pregnancy checking is routine veterinary tasks. We can weigh the cows and evaluate their body conditions to see how they are doing and whether we should supplement with a bit of feed. We can also worm the cows, give them a fly tag in their ears, or spray them for flies and lice. Any cows that have lost their tags over the winter by getting them caught in hay rings can get a new tag.
In our herd, there are always a few cows that need to be culled. After all, we are a small operation, and it doesn\'t take long to outgrow our land. Doing a yearly evaluation can help us make culling decisions. If a cow is getting older and limps a bit, if a cow didn\'t breed back on time, or if a cow is putting more weight on her body than on her calf, we may decide to sell her and allow a younger, healthier cow take her place.
Pregnancy checking the cows costs less than ten dollars per cow. When you multiply that times fifteen or twenty cows, it\'s not a cheap undertaking, but in the long run, it is a good tool in our cattle management toolbox. Feeding just one open cow all year will cost us more than the several hundred dollars we\'ll lay out on these blood tests for the whole herd, so this blood test pays us back by weeding out the poor producing cows in our herd.