Why cattle producers should early pregnancy check replacement heifers?


This is approximately the time of year when you would early pregnancy check fall calving replacement heifers.  Whether you develop replacement heifers for your cattle operation or to sell, early pregnancy checking these heifers is very beneficial to your cattle operation.


Before we discuss the benefits, what is meant by early pregnancy checking replacement heifers?  In the Missouri Show-Me Select Replacement Heifer Program, pregnancy checks on heifers are required within 90 days of the start of the breeding season. Pregnancy checking at this time allows the veterinarian to get a very accurate age of the fetus in days before it falls over the pelvic rim.  Once the fetus falls over the pelvic rim, it is much harder to get an accurate age of the fetus in days.  An accurate fetal age leads to an accurate calving date, which benefits you if heifers are retained or the buyer that purchases the heifers.   This knowledge will allow proper preparation in case the heifer has calving issues.  Furthermore, some buyers will purchase heifers based on calving date.  If you are able to provide that information, it will improve the chances of selling your heifers.


Fetal sex determination can also be done during early pregnancy checks.  A veterinarian can do fetal sex determination at a fetal age between 60 and 90 days (Stroud, 2005) using ultrasound technology.  At this time, the veterinarian can determine with a high accuracy if the fetus is male or female.  If you are retaining the replacement heifers, this is helpful because you can group heifers by fetal sex.  In addition, since heifers having male calves are more likely to have dystocia problems, you can pay closer attention to those heifers.  If you sell replacement heifers, the buyer may be more interested in your heifers based on the sex of their calf, which means fetal sex information could improve the chances of selling your heifers. 


Pregnancy checking replacement heifers approximately 60 days (Selk, 2018) after the breeding season allows open heifers to be culled, improving the profit potential of those heifers.  Culling these heifers reduces resource waste, such as feed, resulting in less cattle operation cost.  Also by culling these heifers early, they can be marketed to feedlots to possibly make the choice grade, which means buyers are willing to pay more money for them.  By reducing resource cost and buyer willingness to pay more for cull heifers, you improved their potential return, which improves profit potential of the cattle operation. 


There are various benefits to early pregnancy checking replacement heifers.  These benefits lead to improved profit potential in the sale of bred replacement heifers or open cull heifers.  Furthermore, these tools can help you better manage your retained bred replacement heifers.  Better management and better profit potential of the heifer development enterprise will improve the profit potential of your entire cattle operation.   


Source: Patrick Davis, MU Extension Livestock Field Specialist