QUESTION: Every year after we pregnancy check our cows, we have one or two that don't calve. Can pregnancy checking cause a cow to abort a calf?
ANSWER: The risk of pregnancy checking with rectal palpation by an experienced veterinarian has little or no effect on the embryo. One report noted about a 5% embryonic loss from day 28 to day 60, regardless of whether cows are palpated or not. Since I don't know how many cows you have, I don't know what percentage loss you are experiencing.
I do know about the benefits of pregnancy checking cows though. This is without a doubt one of the highest value practices a cow/calf operation can utilize.
Pregnancy checks mean open cows can be identified and removed from the herd. This reduces the cost of carrying freeloaders, and over time increases overall herd fertility.
During these checks your veterinarian also can often find other problems including old, "broken-mouthed" cows, foot and lameness issues, cancer eye, mastitis and other teat problems. This examination is also a good opportunity to evaluate body condition and overall genetic merit of cows. Look at it as a chute-side review of your herd health and nutritional program.
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