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Follow practical information for the beef producer on essential topics including management, reproduction and calving, new technology, facilities improvement, beef quality, and feed and nutrition.

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No, this is not an article about artificial insemination – I’m talking about the other “AI.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a phrase that is hard to avoid.

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Almost everyone reading this article is a working manager – one who supervises or at least directs people and manages and works in the operations of the farm, agribusiness or any organization.

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Back in the 80s as a young veterinarian, I was confronted several times by successful ranchers that said that pregnancy testing mature beef cows did not pay.  These comments went against everything that I had been taught in veterinary school.  And of course, I wanted their pregnancy testing business.  I spent countless hours doing partial budgets on keeping open cows over the winter and marketing them in the spring after calving season ended.  I have to admit that there was a positive margin for keeping that open cow around on many of these low input ranches.  But, there was usually a better margin if the open cows and late calving cows were detected earlier and replaced with pregnant cows or heifers.  This allowed the ranch to be fully stocked for winter with pregnant cows and pregnant heifers.   Why couldn’t I get these ranchers to see my point of view?  I was up against tradition, inadequate facilities, and peer pressure.  Until one day…

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Cattle are typically marketed and transported several times in their lives. Marketing and transportation can be the most fatiguing and stressful events in a feeder calf’s life.

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Pregchecking is an important tool to manage your herd efficiently. There are multiple ways to determine the pregnancy status of an animal: wait and see, palpate, draw blood and ultrasound. As in many facets of the cattle industry, there is not a one size fits all solution. Most of us are addressing the questions, “Am I feeding open cattle?” and, “How do I determine which are my most productive animals?”. Ultrasound technology helps answer these questions.

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Becoming a good ultrasounder is all about reading the details amidst the shades of grey. Training your eye to know what “normal” is, will be quite helpful. If you learn what a standard or normal image looks like, you will be able to determine a variation. Ultrasounding takes some effort to learn. The natural progression is pregnant/open determination→fetal aging→fetal sexing and detailed ovarian exams. Confirming pregnancies is simple and can be learned quite quickly for most. Basic fetal aging is a natural progression shortly after pregnant/open status. Fetal sexing and advanced ovarian exams take a lot more time and number of cattle scanned to learn.

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