Hidden cost of inaccurate cattle reproductive testing, says ACV

Jon Condon, 09/08/2015

CATTLE producers who retain accredited cattle vets to perform professional reproductive examinations, to measure pregnancy diagnosis and assess bull fertility can increase returns by $20,000 according to Australian Cattle Veterinarians.

ACVA president Dr Enoch Bergman

ACVA president Dr Enoch Bergman

ACV president Dr Enoch Bergman said failing to PREgCHECK a cow that is not pregnant can result in up to nine months of feed being consumed before recognising she won’t calve, leading to significant costs for producers.

“Producers that don’t preg test typically identify their empty cows at calf marking, often at least a month after the last cow calves,” said Dr Bergman.

“Every property has a limited carrying capacity and every producer a limited feed budget.  Savvy producers identify empty breeders early, allowing them to optimize their stocking density and maximize their potential kilograms of beef per hectare which drives their profitability.

“By budgeting to cull their expected empty cows, producers can push their breeder numbers to utilize the feed that otherwise would have been consumed by empty cows,” said Dr Bergman.

ACV, a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association, offers two flagship cattle reproduction schemes: PREgCHECK – Professional Reproductive Examination, and BULLCHECK – Professional Reproductive Examination, the only professional accreditation schemes of their kind in Australia.

PREgCHECK testing costs producers $2–$5 per head depending upon their herd size and location.  Dr Bergman and his WA clients know that the return on investment (ROI) is significant.

“Roughly speaking, ROI for accurate pregnancy diagnosis is tenfold to most producers,” he said.

“Most of my producers’ annual feed and breeding costs for their cows equates to a minimum of $400 per breeder.  If 10pc are expected to be empty, and we identify those empty cows even half a year earlier, we would save $200 per empty cow diagnosed.  If 10pc are empty, the value distributed across the entire mob is $20 per head preg tested,” he explained.

Alternatively, if one were to calculate the opportunity loss of failing to diagnose empty cows early, the value of accurate pregnancy diagnosis is even greater.

“Producers who have their cows PREgCHECKed annually could run one extra breeder for every two cows expected to be diagnosed as empty.  With weaned calves bringing close to $900, every two breeders culled early equates to an extra breeder in the system that will produce a calf 90pc of the time. This works out to $810 per breeder, or $40.50 return per head PREgCHECKed,” said Dr Bergman.

“To put it in average terms, if a producer expects 50 empty cows in a mob of 500 breeders, and was able to identify them six months earlier, the farmer could save $10,000 worth of feed by culling their dry cows after PREgCHECK testing. That wasted feed could have grossed an additional $20,000 if fed to pregnant cows – meaning that over a season they could have improved their gross by close to 5pc with very little further expense, driving their profitability up substantially.”

PREgCHECK accredited veterinarians are the only providers of pregnancy testing to have demonstrated the ability to accurately diagnose and estimate the age of pregnancies down to six weeks of gestation.  Dr Bergman has demonstrated that the cost of inaccuracy is over $5 per head pregnancy tested, per percentage of inaccuracy.

Dr Bergman said blood and milk tests were not 100pc accurate, nor were ultrasonographers that lacked the skills to accurately check their findings manually.

“I have used an ultrasound to test hundreds of thousands of cows, but I have manually checked every empty cow.  It surprises producers how many pregnancies the ultrasound misses.” Producers that understand the cost of inaccuracy realise the value of using their accredited veterinarian to PREgCHECK their cows,” he said.

Cattle producers should also ensure their bulls have been adequately fertility tested, as sub-fertile bulls result in fewer pregnancies, disrupt the calving pattern and lead to younger, lighter calves at sale.

“The real cost of a sub-fertile bull can be enormous. Using BULLCHECK accredited veterinarians to identify bulls at risk of being sub-fertile or even infertile is critical, whether a producer is selling or buying bulls,” said Dr Bergman.

“Bull sellers use accredited veterinarians to protect their clients profitability and hence their own reputation.  All BULLCHECK veterinarians have been trained and tested to standardize the way they measure and report bull fertility.”

The Australian Cattle Vet schemes are the envy of veterinarians from other countries but perhaps more importantly ACV members are well equipped to provide producers with important advice about overall herd health and performance.

“Australian Cattle Veterinarian members are passionate about improving their clients’ profitability and the health and welfare of their animals.  Their livelihood and reputation demands they remain accountable and can consistently deliver profitable outcomes for their clients.  That is why so many have gone to the effort to become BULLCHECK and PREgCHECK accredited.”


Click here for more information about BULLCHECK and PREgCHECK.






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