Pregnancy checking pays the bills

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By Rick Greenwell

This is an article recently sent from a newsletter Off the Hoof and I wanted to share it with you all.

From a benchmarking perspective, in a “normal” summer breeding season, it should be expected that 90 percent of your mature cowherd will become pregnant within a 63-day breeding season.

A pregnancy rate of 93 percent is considered exceptional, and a pregnancy rate below 87 percent is typically considered below average. The exception to this benchmark is in a heavily infected, fescue-based system, where producers can expect a reduction in these figures by as much as 3-5 percent.

Although most producers are trying to minimize costs at a time when feed costs are volatile, skipping an end-of-season pregnancy diagnosis for the herd is not the place to start. I would argue that a pregnancy diagnosis is one of the best investments you can make in your herd.

Moreover, with the slim margins noted in many facets of the beef industry, some producers can’t afford not to conduct a pregnancy exam. It may sound crazy, but paying for a pregnancy diagnosis will most likely make you money. Particularly with wintering feed costs exceeding $250 in many locations, identifying even one open cow quickly pays for the veterinary bill with money left over.

For example, if you have 100 cows and pregnancy diagnosis is $6/cow, you have spent $600 in pregnancy diagnoses. Even if you have an exceptional herd, you will likely have seven non-pregnant cows upon diagnosis. At $250/cow saved in wintering costs ($1750 total), after subtracting $600 in veterinarian fees, the producer is still netting $1150 in opportunity cost.

Once open cows are identified, an appropriate marketing strategy needs to be developed. Cull breeding animals typically represent about 20 percent of the gross receipts for cow-calf operations.

Therefore, careful consideration should be taken to explore all management and marketing options available.

Depending on age and body condition, as well as the cause of being open, alternative marketing options may include moving to a different breeding season, sell as an embryo recipient, or if cost of gain allows, feeding to reach a utility market.

To assist in this decision, producers should be cognizant of seasonal price swings typically noted in the cull cow market.