As with our sheep, we scan our cows to see if they are pregnant or not. It’s a really important process as it helps us to manage the herd appropriately.
Our cows calf in different groups in order to spread out the workload across the year. We currently have one group calving (February) and this scanning was for the next group that should be due around September this year.
For a cow pregnancy it is the same length of time as a human- nine months. When we put the bull in with the girls to do his job he can sometimes miss a couple, they may take at different times which spreads out the births and he may not be effective at all.
It’s really important that we have them scanned- it enables us to firstly know if they are pregnant so we can look after them as appropriate, and secondly they can tell how far along they are and whether they are having a single calf or twins. By knowing when they are due we can make sure they get appropriate feed and that we are alert to monitor them for any issues that may occur.
We scan the cows 28 days after the bull has been taken out. This is to ensure that the scanning is accurate, if we were to scan sooner its unlikely that a pregnant cow would show up as pregnant.
To scan it is quite a simple process. We had 31 to scan this time. 26 cows- they have calved previously, 6 heifers- these are first time moms. We scanned the cows in two smaller groups and the heifers in their own group. The reason we scan the heifers on their own is similar to ourselves- when it’s your first pregnancy everything is new and your unsure of what’s going on so we take more time to make sure they feel comfortable. Those that have calved before know the process and you find they just flow easier as it’s something they are use to.
To make the scanning a smooth process we run the groups one by one into a holding pen. One at a time they go into the crush. The crush is something we use all the time when handling cows- to trim feet, do TB testing, general health checks and trimming. It’s like a funnel which holds them in place and ensures the safety of everyone involved.
Scanning is a skill and our vet comes along to perform the scan itself. There is no polite way to put it but the process is very simple. The vet puts his hand with a small scanner (an ultrasound just like you would use on a human) up the cows bum as this gives the best view of the cows uterus. From this they can see what’s inside the uterus and not only say if they are pregnant but predict how far along.
The majority of ours where 40 – 60 days pregnant which means they will be calving September, October, November. We had some that weren’t pregnant so they will go back in with the bull and be later calving if they take this time round.
We believe it’s essential to scan to ensure we can give the girls the best possible care.