Reproductive herd health visits by veterinarians have changed tremendously with the use of ultrasound technology. First and foremost, portable ultrasound units allow veterinarians to diagnose pregnancies earlier and more easily, but the benefits don’t stop there.
“It’s a completely different ball game from what it was 20 years ago,” said Scott Pertzborn, D.V.M., from Lodi Veterinary Care in Lodi, Wis. He talked about the advantages of ultrasound on farms during a demonstration at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Annual Business Conference.
Once again, ultrasound provides an opportunity for earlier pregnancy detection. Timing depends on the skill and experience of the practitioner, but Pertzborn said many veterinarians are really good at using this tool. Their team checks a lot of cows at 30 days pregnant.
Another benefit is confirmation of fetal viability. This is detected with a heartbeat. On the other hand, veterinarians can predict fetal loss earlier if no heartbeat is found.
Ultrasound is used to identify twins as well. Pertzborn said cows carrying twins tend to calve earlier. He recommends drying those cows up earlier, and then bringing them into the transition pen a few weeks sooner so they can start eating a high-energy diet.
Fetal sexing can also be done with ultrasound, which is important to some dairy producers.
Pertzborn said ultrasound is also really useful for looking at ovarian structures and the uterus and helping predict where a cow is in its cycle. Veterinarians can use this information to give a prognosis and identify the best treatment, explained Pertzborn.
He also shared some nonreproductive uses for ultrasound on dairy farms. For instance, the technology can be used to look for obstructions in a teat that was stepped on and won’t milkout.
Use of ultrasound to evaluate calves’ lungs has also become popular the last few years, according to Pertzborn. Veterinarians can evaluate calves to see if their lungs are normal or consolidated, which can be a sign of respiratory disease.
Furthermore, ultrasound can be used to analyze bumps or lumps on cows to determine what is inside. With so many applications, ultrasound has become a valuable tool for veterinarians and the dairies they work with.