Pregnancy Tests

HOW to tell if your cow is PREGNANT?

“Looks” are rarely a reliable method of confirming pregnancy. First consider these early thoughts:

  • Count 21 days from date of breeding, look for signs of heat within a few days of the 21 day mark. If you see no signs of heat, proceed to next steps.
  • A drop in milk production may occur. We have one cow that this is a great indicator of pregnancy, because she reliably breeds on the first try and 20-30 days, bloop: down goes her milk production! In this particular cow, she usually drops ½ to 1 gallon over the next month or two. (A drop in production over ONE DAY is common when a cow comes into heat. A pregnant cow more gradually loses a little over the next MONTH or two after becoming pregnant.)
  • If the cow comes back into heat on an odd date, her body may have tried to hold a pregnancy that was not quite ready to stick. If she comes back in heat more than 21 days up to around 42 days, this may be the case. Consider why she may not have bred (see suggestions above). Try to correct any possible issues and continue breeding when the cow has a good, strong heat. Recurring problems may require a vet call to determine if the cow is cystic or unhealthy in her reproductive system. Late-term miscarriages – the cow should be tested for Neospora.

Reliable Pregnancy Check Methods:

There are several methods to accurately confirm pregnancy in a cow. Some methods are surprisingly inexpensive ($2.50 per sample!) and highly accurate (almost 100%!)

Our Favorite Method:

When to take sample: 28 days or more post breeding; 73+ days post calving
How is sample taken? 2cc’s of blood from vein (jugular, milk, or tail). We use a 3cc syringe to draw the blood, and then inject that into a vacu-tainer glass tube.
What is the cost? Mail to lab (we use a small priority shipper for $5.70ish)The lab fee is $2.50 (subject to change at various labs).That’s right, for less than $10!!!
How accurate is it? 99% – We have never had a false positive or negative.

Blood Draw for PRegnancy Test

Another option is to draw blood from the tail: Instructions and Video on Tail Blood Draw

Sample Biotracking results:

Biotracking does not indicate whether the fetus will be male or female, but in this case both cows ended up having heifers - yay!
Biotracking does not indicate whether the fetus will be male or female, but in this case both cows ended up having heifers – yay!

Other methods:

RECTAL PALPATION Contact your local vet
When to check: 5-6 weeks (or more) after breeding
How is sample taken? No sample, the vet is physically feeling for a calf
What is the cost? Vet fees vary, plus mileage (Example: For our vet to come out, it would probably cost around $80-100)
How accurate is it? Depends on the experience of the vet, some vets have ultrasound available as well, which if done around 50 days post breeding, may be able to tell whether fetus is male or female.
Risks? Risk of miscarriage – We ONLY recommend palpation if biotracking is not feasible for you to do AND if your vet often preg-check cows this way and does a good job.
When to take sample: 35 days or more post breeding; 60+ days post calving
How is sample taken? Milk is poured into a tube with preservative.
What is the cost? $5.95
How accurate is it? 80-85%+ accurate, false positives possible depending on timing.
When to take sample: See website for thorough details
How is sample taken? When cow pees, get a sample directly on stick or pour into a paper cup and put that sample onto stick
What is the cost? $50 for 10 test kits
How accurate is it? over 95% accurate IF done on correctly counted dates
False positive? likely depending on timing

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