Use of Ultrasound in Bovine Pregnancy Detection
Ultrasound has been a popular diagnostic tool for detecting early pregnancies in cows. Ultrasound is also used for identifying open cows, so that fewer days are lost before rebreeding. A skilled ultrasonographer can identify a fetus within 26 days of gestation.
Ultrasound pregnancy detection has been reported to be 100 percent accurate by 20 days after breeding. However, it is better to wait until 25 to 30 days of pregnancy to detect an embryo. By that time, the embryo is a little larger and more easily spotted on the ultrasound screen. Therefore, it is easier to scan cows that are at least 26 days pregnant.
Currently there are two other diagnostic tools to assess the reproductive tract and diagnose pregnancy, those being rectal palpation and blood tests. Ultrasound is far superior, faster and cheaper in doing these things when performed by a skilled ultrasonographer than either rectal palpation or blood pregnancy tests.
While rectal palpation only allows you palpate the surface of the uterus, ovaries and fetus, ultrasound provides the ability to visualize these structures with real time images. Ultrasound can identify a fetus that has just died (by observing the heart beat), which is impossible with rectal palpation. Because ultrasound has the ability to visualize the ovaries completely, it is much easier and more reliable to diagnose ovarian cysts or the presence or absence of a corpus luteum.
Pregnancy detection with ultrasound offers several advantages over rectal palpation when used 20 to 100 days after breeding. In addition to allowing earlier detection of pregnancy, fetal aging during that period to predict calving date can be more precise if fetal body parts are measured on the ultrasound screen rather than estimated by hand.
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