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Vet Report

Pregnancy checking season means decision time on open cows

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Preg checking

Dr. David Maier of Twin Lakes Animal Clinic conducts a bovine pregnancy examination.

Tri-State Neighbor Columnist

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is Associate Veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota.

What’s on the books for the next month? Preg checking. Since the cost of feed is the most expensive part of keeping cattle, it is important for your break evens to get rid of the open cows.


We can stage cattle anywhere from 30-110 days bred so this is usually done July through September. Most practitioners use an ultrasound to give calving dates, but some can stage with palpation alone.

If you want to know if your cattle are bred sooner than 30 days, you can use a blood test which will tell you if they are 28 days bred or more (insert sardonic smile). Some vets or lay people who say they can pick them up at less than 30 days bred - good job to you!


We can pick up the sex on ultrasound starting at 57 days bred. Every practitioner is different in how far along they like them to be. Personally, I think that 70-80 days bred is the best.

Bred, late or open

This time of year, we are typically calling them bred, late or open. If producers do not pull the bulls and still want a calving date cut off, we can call the lates. Most producers want to be done calving on June 1 but some want July 1 or even Aug. 1. whatever floats your boat, buddy.

Any cows that are still with the bulls and feel open could technically be under 30 days bred, so I recommend rechecking these in a few weeks. I personally like using the ultrasound this time of year because it helps evaluate fetal viability (finding fetuses that are aborting), helps find twins, and makes evaluating the ovaries and open uterus easier. When it gets later in the year and we are pregging cattle that are really far along, I’ll oftentimes just palpate them because it’s faster.

Signs of pregnancy

When we are ultrasounding and palpating cattle, we oftentimes are trying to find the fetus to make our pregnancy diagnosis. Once the fetus is too far down in the abdomen, we can no longer feel the whole fetus and have to use other signs of pregnancy to call them bred.

The ones I feel for are the cotyledons (buttons), feeling for a part of the fetus, being able to bounce the fetus with my fingertips and sometimes feeling for fremitus. Fremitus is the buzzing of the middle uterine artery. At its largest, the artery is the size of a mega sharpie! That’s why uterine prolapse cows can die within a few minutes of their middle uterine artery snapping. Gush.

Pregnancy rates

This year is like every other year where some rates are higher than usual and some are lower. The drought did not change a whole lot on the rates in our area. Less than 10% open is still considered normal, so those of you with 5% open this year instead of 2% and are having a conniption, just blame the drought and I’ll nod my head.

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is associate veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota. 

This vet report is provided in conjunction with Twin Lakes Animal Clinic and Howard Animal Clinic. Questions? Send an email to Lainie Scholtz, DVM at, call 605-256-0123, or write 45305 SD Highway 34 Madison, SD 57042.

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Tri-State Neighbor Columnist

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is Associate Veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota.

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