Livestock Ultrasound FAQ

WHY ULTRASOUND?

Pregnancy checking is an important and valuable decision making tool. Technological advancements have made small, lightweight and truly portable ultrasound scanners to become standard equipment on farms (used by veterinarians or breeders). Portable systems make every day work easier and directly affects the economy of the farm.

When examining large livestock, ultrasound allows you to see inside the animals by passing the ultrasound transducer into the rectum, once placed over the reproductive tract, the ultrasound machine will display a black and white image of the ovary or uterus and will reveal far more detail than a traditional rectal palpation. With manual palpation, your arm enters the rectum and examines the reproductive tract by “feel” alone, whereby the ultrasound image allows you much greater accuracy. Smaller animals are examined externally using an abdominal probe. Ultrasound is the most accurate tool for evaluating the reproductive tract. The most practical uses of ultrasound in reproductive management are to quickly and accurately diagnose pregnancy. Once very expensive, cumbersome and fragile, technological advancements have made the machines very practical and cost effective.

BENEFITS OF ULTRASOUND

Ultrasound allows for early pregnancy diagnosis and is very accurate in diagnosing early stage pregnancy. Most studies confirm 100% diagnosing accuracy as early as the 25th day in pigs and by the 30th day in cows. Examinations in the earlier phase of pregnancy do not give maximum certainty and performing an exam on the recommended optimal day provides enough time for the embryos to become a little larger and more easily spotted in the ultrasound image. Ultrasound offers much greater efficiency as it allows users to more quickly and accurately diagnose pregnancy. Early pregnancy diagnosis is markedly enhanced as embryos are more easily detected. Ultrasound can be used to reliably detect pregnancy at 30 days of gestation in cattle to assist producers in capturing more returns, whereas manual exams require an additional seven days.

Ultrasound offers many advantages over manual palpation such as earlier, more accurate identification of non-pregnant animals, allows for a quick response time to rebreed open cows, verifies fetal viability, and depending on the image quality and skill level of the user can show fetal sex. Overall ultrasound is an effective tool in herd management to improve reproductive efficiency and overall profitability. Producers adopting independent ultrasound as a best practice on their own farms enjoy the convenience of being able to determine pregnant or open on their own schedule, which depending on frequency of veterinary visits can assist greatly in rebreeding more efficiently due to the timeliness of information gathered.

ADVANTAGES OF ULTRASOUND

OVERALL PRODUCT BENEFITS

Pregnancy checking animals using ultrasound offers numerous advantages that directly affect productivity and profitability over traditional manual exams. The intelligence that ultrasound provides users is highly beneficial to the bottom line, specifically ultrasound:

  • Is the most accurate tool to confirm pregnancy and fetal viability
  • Is the only tool that can confirm fetal sex and fetal age.
  • Allows for much earlier detection of pregnancy for a quick response time to re-breed animals.
  • Is a very effective tool in herd management to improve overall reproductive efficiency and profitability.
  • Allows for faster, more accurate, and easier herd pregnancy checks for the practitioner and the animals.

THE MOST IMPORTANT BENEFITS THAT ULTRASOUND PROVIDES ARE:

Increased speed for faster, more efficient and profitable pregnancy checks. As the user improves their skill level using ultrasound, the pregnancy checks become faster, more efficient and more accurate. Ultrasound can offer a noteworthy and lucrative time savings over manual exams.

For professional veterinarians, the heightened intelligence provided by ultrasound is of great value to clients and the time savings on the farm allows for more customer visits per day.

Manually pregnancy checking the animals is a strenuous job. It is not unusual for a vet specializing in large animal medicine to sustain injuries to their arms that can make work difficult. Ultrasound is easier on the animal and the practitioner.

A typical manual pregnancy check works by feel alone. The ultrasound allows a view of the entire reproductive tract and will show tremendous detail that a professional veterinarian can use to diagnose a great deal more than just pregnancy.

For producers, the key benefits of adapting ultrasound are the convenience of examining animals independently on a flexible schedule. For instance, if a herd pregnancy check is completed and a definitive pregnant or open call is difficult on a cow bred 28- 30 days, a producer could re-check this animal on day 35 and could with confidence determine if the animal is pregnant or open rather than wait for the next herd pregnancy check perhaps on day 44. This allows for a much faster response time and a more effective breeding program.

YOU WILL GUARANTEE THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF SAFETY

Having your own ultrasound scanner, you reduce the risk of infecting your flock with disease from another farm. Parvovirus, flu, salmonellosis, chlamidiosis, brucellosis, FMD, rotaviruses and circoviruses are just a few examples of infections and pathogens you can protect your livestock from if you guarantee a high level of biological security. The same equipment used by different farmers is one of the most common ways for disease transmission.

COMPARING ULTRASOUND TO MANUAL PALPATION

EARLY PREGNANCY DIAGNOSIS IS POSSIBLE USING DRAMINSKI SCANNERS AT:

COMPARING ULTRASOUND TO PREGNANCY BLOOD TEST

With a pregnancy blood test, you are testing for a protein that is produced when there is a pregnancy. This protein stays around long after a fetus has died or a cow has calved, which leads to calling more cows pregnant than actually are.

Ultrasound has the advantage of visualizing the fetus and determining viability immediately. Blood pregnancy tests only tell you pregnant or open whereby the ultrasound can offer much more valuable information. Blood pregnancy tests require drawing blood, sending off the samples, waiting for the test results, and then managing steps to get the cow rebred if open. This requires a number of steps, which demand extra labor and time.

With ultrasound you are provided with more and better information instantly, allowing you to take steps to get the cow rebred much sooner if she is found open.

ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF ULTRASOUND

An ultrasound machine is an investment, however the expense can easily be justified and recouped whether you are a professional veterinarian or a producer, the return on investment can be brief. For producers the reduced wintering costs and the efficiency in which cows can be rebred more accurately, much earlier is a great advantage. For professional veterinarians incorporating ultrasound into practice offers greater customer value and more client visits.

ULTRASOUND CAN BE AN ECONOMICAL CHOICE WHEN CONSIDERING BENEFITS TO YOUR REPRODUCTIVE PROGRAM OR PRACTICE

  • Accurate pregnant or open determination as early as 27 days.
  • Assess fetal viability.
  • Determine fetal sex as early as 55 days.
  • Faster preg checks (based on skill and experience).
  • Earlier rebreeding of open cows.
  • Reduced wintering costs.
  • Less stress on the cattle and the practitioner.

The most notable impact on farm economics comes from early detection of pregnant or open cows. Open cows can be rebred more quickly reducing the number of open days. Considering the average daily cost of housing and feeding the animals, early diagnosis and earlier rebreeding can justify the cost of the machine in as little as one to two years, depending on the size of the herd offering a good return on investment. As experience and skill level improve, the economic value of ultrasound for use in bovine reproduction will also increase.

ULTRASOUND CAN ALSO BE USED TO:

  • Accurately measure back-fat in pigs.
  • Accurately measure muscle and fat content in beef cattle.
  • Perform detailed examinations of horse tendons and eye-balls.

HOW TO CHOOSE AN ULTRASOUND MACHINE?

Buying an ultrasound machine is an investment and considering how you will be using your machine, what you will be using it for and how you plan to use it in the future are important considerations.

Some key considerations are:

Portability – How easily and comfortably will it be to carry with you? Is the machine light weight enough to comfortably check the entire herd?

Draminski Ultrasound Systems are designed to be lightweight and comfortable. Depending on the scanner, all systems weigh between 3.3 lbs. and 5.5 lbs. including the battery and the probe.

Ease of Use – Is it easy to learn and understand?

Draminski Ultrasound systems are easy, straightforward and very intuitive. One customer noted “…I will be honest, I haven’t read any of the user guide material other than the little quick start booklet since the iScan is so simple. I don’t think anyone needs training on that part.”

Durability – Is the machine robust enough to withstand the reality of your working conditions? Is it water resistant, dust proof, kick proof, drop proof? Is it made with plastic housing or something more durable?

Draminski Ultrasound systems are uniquely housed in an extremely robust casing made with a material called duraluminum and not plastic like many portable systems. This unique casing allows for an extremely lightweight, yet durable device that can withstand being dropped, kicked, stepped on, dust, water, etc.

Often used in aerospace design, duraluminum is known for its strength and lightweight nature. The casing will not crack if dropped or stepped on. The strength of the casing also allows for many of the scanners to be water resistant. Clean up is fast and easy as you can simply hose (or even power wash) the scanners off with water. A great feature for examining marine mammals and fish.

Power source – Does it require a power source or how long can you work portably using the batteries before they require recharging? How long does it take to recharge a battery? How long does the system require to start up?

Draminski Ultrasound systems are designed to start up immediately with no warm up time required. High quality lithium ion batteries recharge quickly and provide more than enough working time.

Systems allow for between 4.5 – 10 hours of portable working time.

Image quality – How much detail do you require to suit your goals? Basic pregnancy confirmation or exclusion requires less detail and a more affordable system, whereas fetal sexing, detailed reproductive diagnosis, etc., will require a great level of detail and a higher resolution. If it is a goggle, can you comfortably wear it for long periods of time?

Draminski Ultrasound systems are designed to suit different budgets and needs. If simple pregnancy checking is the goal, a basic and affordable system like the Sonofarm Mini is all that is required. Whereas, a more sophisticated system like the iScan will allow for tremendous detail as noted by Dr. Renne Bage, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; “…iScan is a user friendly, portable scanner with extremely high image quality and very high resolution. It’s possible to visualize really small details like the smallest antral follicles in the ovary and internal organs in early embryos.”

Versatility – does the system have the option to view on a screen, connect goggles and an external monitor if desired? Can you interchange probes to examen large and small animals if necessary?

Draminski Ultrasound systems offer a great deal of options to suit your goals. If examining large and small animals is a goal, the Draminski 4Vet Mini, AnimalProfi II and Sonofarm Mini all have the option of interchangeable probes.

If viewing options are important, the Draminski 4Vet Mini allows for use with the screen, connecting to goggles or an external monitor.

Service – Where is the servicing available if required? How long does it typically take? Is it possible to get a loaner machine during servicing? Are the electronics and components high quality and built to last?

FarmTech Solutions offers service and repair in Canada and is happy to provide you with a loaner ultrasound system if required.

Warranty – How long is the warranty? Does it cover all parts and components? If a ‘lifetime’ warranty is advertised, does it require a monthly service commitment/contract that includes a cost to you?

All Draminski Ultrasound systems come with a full two year manufacturer warranty and the probes include a full one year manufacturer warranty.

What are my goals? – Knowing what you want to accomplish will help guide you to the right system that is best suited to your goals. Ultrasound machines vary in price, image quality and features. If your goal is to simply determine pregnancy and nothing more, a simple, economical unit that offers image resolution to this degree is a good choice.

If you are seeking more detailed images for fetal sexing, fetal aging, pathology detection, etc. a system with a higher image resolution is required. If you plan to view your images during live scanning only, again, a simple, paired down unit is ideal, if want to save images and videos of scans to view later or download to your computer, a unit with memory is required. If you plan to examen large and small animals a unit with interchangeable probes is needed. Knowing your goals will help us to pair you with the unit that is right for you.

CAN SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER USED AN ULTRASOUND LEARN TO CONFIDENTLY SCAN AND INTERPRET THE IMAGES?

Even if you have never pregnancy checked your animals yourself, you CAN learn to perform an ultrasound. We are continuing to develop education options.

If you are interested in arranging or participating in a training, please contact us at 1.800.672.9182 or info@farmtechsolutions.ca

DO I NEED AN ULTRASOUND SYSTEM OR A PREGNANCY DETECTOR?

The pregnancy detectors are wonderful tools if you seek to simply confirm pregnancy in smaller animals, the ultrasound systems are more sophisticated diagnostic tools that provide a much greater level of intelligence. Using an ultrasound will allow you to see the uterus and confirm if an embryo is present, etc.

The Draminski Pregnancy Detectors are ideal for breeders of smaller animals (pigs, sheep, goats, dogs) who want a fast, simple and affordable pregnancy confirmation. The larger animals (cattle, mares, etc.) require an ultrasound due to their larger anatomy. It is difficult and less accurate to apply an abdominal probe externally to confirm or exclude pregnancy in larger livestock. It is much more accurate and recommended to use an ultrasound system with a rectal probe for a detailed view of the uterus for the larger animals.

The Draminski Pregnancy Detectors quickly confirm or exclude pregnancy with an audible beep as they do not have screens and can only provide a simple, yes/no audio and visual confirmation.

Swine

Testing may begin as early as 18 days (large litters will show positive at this early stage), and open sows can be diagnosed as early as 30 days. Normal testing time in sows and gilts is 30-73 days. Optimal timing for accuracy is 25 – 35 days.

Sheep

Pregnancy testing in ewes can begin at 40 days with most diagnoses made by 45 days. Testing can also be done in the normal standing position, providing diagnosis at 60-65 days. Optimal timing for accuracy is 60 – 90 days.

Goats

Pregnancy testing may begin at 30-40 days on the right side. Optimal timing for accuracy is 60 – 90 days.

PREGNANCY DETECTION IS POSSIBLE AT (IN DAYS)