Monday, December 1, 2014

Pregnancy Checking

     The day before Thanksgiving was deemed the time to pregnancy check our cows for the year. It turned out to be a bitter cold day but we tuffed it through and we were happy with the results of the day and to have it done for another year.
     All summer the cows were out in the pasture with the bull getting breed so they will have a calf early next spring. After their time in the pasture we let them out on cornstalks until the snow started to fly. Most years we have a little more temped weather through Thanksgiving and do our annual pregnancy checking during the Thanksgiving break when we have more hands available for helping.
Pregnancy checking is done to see which cows did achieve a pregnancy over the summer. If a cow is found to be "open" or not pregnant they will be fed extra feed and sold to market. The job of the cows on the farm is to produce offspring. It is not productive to keep them for an entire year without a calf and also there many be a reason, like age, that they didn't breed. We were very happy with the fertility of our herd this year. The vet pregnancy checked all 140 of our cows and only 4 were found "open". Those are pretty good odds.
      To perform the pregnancy check the vet has to go behind the animal and stick his hand into the cows rectum. He then fells though the bowel wall for the size of the uterus and can tell if the cow is pregnant. Sometimes he will tell us big calf, or late calf which we note and keep in our records. It is not a glamors job but it does take skill and is vital to beef production.
        Another thing that we did with the cows when we had them in the head gate was put a magnet into their stomach. The magnet is about 3 inches long and will stay in the cows stomach for the rest of their life. This is done to prevent complications from what is call a cow getting "hardware". We feed a lot of ditch hay and there can occasionally be small bits of metal in the feed. The cows can eat this since they don't chew their food very well when they first swallow it and the metal can go through their digestive system and kill them. By placing a magnet in their stomach the metal will attach to the magnet and then stay within the stomach where it will not cause problems.  Getting the magnet into their stomach is not an easy thing. My dad had the job of using a metal tube he placed into the cows mouth and then down the throat. When it was fall enough down the throat he pushed a plunger on the tube and sent the magnet into the cows stomach. As you can imagine the cows don't care for this but once it is done they move along as if nothing happened. As my husband says We now have more "attractive" cows, and they have a "magnetic" personality.

      Another job during pregnancy checking is giving the cows some annual vaccines. This is a good opportunity to give medication because putting every cow into the head gate is a big job and we don't do it very often. We only gave the medication to the pregnant cows because the one that are "open" we will send to market and we don't want the medication in their systems. My bother John was in charge of the med administration.

      Paul got the important and sometimes frustrating job of pushing the cows up into the head gate area. The cows are use to going into the head gate, but they also know that the head gate is where they are given medication and other unpleasant treatments are done.  If a farmer had more time they should put the cows in the head gate on occasion and not perform any unpleasant things to teach the cows that the head gate is not always bad. We always say that we would like to do this but just run out of time. Because the cows associate the head gate with discomfort it is sometimes difficult to get them in. There are some trick that do make the process a little easier and we try to use them as much as possible.
      My job was to record the information and keep the magnets loaded. By the end of the time outside my toes were very cold and tired from being in the cold. I can only imagine how tired the men were. I enjoy being part of these days and helping out. It is exciting to think of all the cute little calves were will have in March/April and it is nice to hear the vet say our cows are in very good condition after just coming in off of grass. The cows are healthy and ready for the winter that has come all to quickly. Good job Girls.

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