Pregnancy Testing Options 

 January 10, 2021

     With many cattle-owners breeding their cattle now for fall calving, pregnancy testing is the crucial final step. We spend so much time in the management of our small herd to getting our cows in correct body condition, picking the perfect bull to breed them to, and getting them bred at the right time. With all this effort, many times confirming all our efforts worked is the last thing on our to-do list. Failure to identify if a cow or heifer has actually conceived can cost valuable time and money. How much does it cost to run a cow for an entire year just to find out they are not going to calve?

Here are your options to not let this happen.

Rectal Palpation

This is historically the most commonly used method to confirm pregnancy in cattle. The process is simple; your veterinarian inserts their arm rectally and feels the uterus through the rectal wall, checking the uterus for tone and a fetus. Rectal palpation can be performed accurately from 45-60 days all the way to birth. Economically it is usually the cheapest of the options, but has limited use other than mid-term pregnancy detection.


This technology has been around for several decades now, but there are limitations to its use. Ultrasound is an excellent tool for early pregnancy detection. Pregnancy and sex of the fetus can be determined through this process. Stages of early pregnancy can also be determined also, which helps determine if a cow was bred via A.I or a clean-up bull. According to Dr. Joe Ables, DVM of Decatur, TX, ultrasound can be reliably used as soon as 30 days after breeding, and sexing of the fetus can be performed between 35 and 65 days after breeding. Ultrasound is the most expensive of the three options I am discussing, and typically is not used for mid- to late-term pregnancies.

Blood Test

 Roop Dey / Alamy Stock Photo

Blood testing for pregnancy is one of the latest technologies in the cattle world. There are several companies, such as Affinity Laboratories which we use, that perform these services. Cattle can be tested as early as 28 days post-heat as long as they are 73 days post-partum. These tests have a 99.9% accuracy on open cattle, and a 93-95% accuracy on cattle testing pregnant. Cattle that have had an embryo implanted should be tested beginning 32 days post heat. Blood testing is an economical option, though a negative in the results can take several days to be received versus the other options where the results are instant.

Planning the future can only be done if you know where you are now.

If you have any other questions about Pregnancy Testing or Breeding, please email us at zntcattle@gmail.com.

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