Kory Bigalk, DVM, Zumbrota Veterinary Clinic and Andy Borrowman, DVM, VetLogic Inc., say that ultrasound technology use is becoming more widespread in dairy reproduction. By using ultrasound a practitioner can provide information not available from any other method of pregnancy detection, which was explained at the 2009 Regional Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council meetings.
Multiple procedures now involve the use of ultrasound technology, including:

  • Pregnancy detection. Many practitioners believe that the use of ultrasound will slow the process of pregnancy checking; however, many quickly realize that ultrasound can decrease the time necessary for pregnancy diagnosis. Bigalk and Borrowman have experienced a 20 percent increase in speed of pregnancy detection.
  • Fetal sexing. Clients find fetal sex information invaluable when making culling decisions on marginal or sick cows. It is also useful to avoid early dry-off, increase live births of heifers, and aid in inventory control of young stock. The ability to detect fetal sex can take extensive practice and patience to develop the necessary skills. Aside from skill, fetal sexing also requires the use of high-quality, high-resolution ultrasound paired with good optics.
  • Twins. The ability to diagnose twins can be done from 28 to 90 days. One of the benefits is to allow special management considerations for this sub-set of cows, such as the ability to dry these cows off early. Since most cows carrying twins calve seven to 14 days before their expected calving date, early dry-off permits them to have a normal dry period. Cows carrying twins can be identified with leg-bands or other means to alert maternity personnel of their high-risk status. Early and aggressive intervention during parturition can help prevent stillbirths in this sub-set of animals.
  • Ovarian function. The use of ultrasound allows for a very quick and accurate diagnosis of ovarian function including detecting the presence or absence of a corpus luteum, differential diagnosis of luteal and follicular cysts, and diagnosis of anovular cows.
  • Abnormalities. Routine scanning of the uterus during scheduled reproductive exams will permit speedy diagnosis of several abnormalities:
    • Unviable Fetus: An unviable fetus can be determined by the absence of a heartbeat, abnormal uterine fluid or a degenerating fetus.
    • Pyometra: Pyometra can be quickly and easily determined by the cloudiness or echogenicity of the uterine fluid and a distended uterus.
    • Others: Abscesses, tumors, adhesions, mucometra and estrus are readily diagnosed.

A skilled veterinarian using ultrasound can now provide real-time information not available with any other method, which adds value for the dairy producer and the veterinarian, resulting in a more successful reproduction program.