Ultrasound Vs. Manual Scanning

Manual Pregnancy Diagnosis Versus Ultrasound Pregnancy Diagnosis

By David Peterson

Past President of Australian Cattle Veterinarians and Principal Veterinarian
Finley Group of Practices 57 Warmatta Street Finley NSW 2713
Phone 03 5883 3833

David has had 28 years and approximately 400,000 cattle experience with manual pregnancy testing and, 7 years and approximately 120,000 cattle experience with ultrasound pregnancy testing.

Rectal palpation has been the standard method of pregnancy testing cattle for many years. This involves using a gloved hand and arm to palpate the reproductive tract of the cow through the rectal wall.

In recent years ultrasound has been used more commonly as a method of pregnancy testing. The ultrasound referred to in this article is B mode or real time ultrasound. This method produces a black and white picture of the tissues being scanned using the different densities of the tissues and fluids to produce the image.

The methods of ultrasound include:

Introducing the ultrasound transducer into the rectum by hand.

  • Having the ultrasound transducer on a pole so no hand is introduced. This involves connecting the transducer to an introducer, or some probes are designed especially for cattle.
  • Placing the ultrasound transducer on the flank of the cow.

The first two methods involving the introduction of the transducer into the rectum are the most common. They are best suited to cattle early in pregnancy. The flank method can be used in later pregnancy.

There appears to be a perception that ultrasound is better than manual pregnancy testing. I would like to point out what I see as the benefits and limitations of each system.

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