Sunday, January 17, 2010

Useful Do-It-Yourself Testing for Cattle and Sheep

I'm a do-it-yourself type person, and if you are too, and you happen to have livestock you might appreciate these links. Especially when you are small scale, it's nice to not have to call the vet out to do EVERYTHING for you. But , if you need to have the vet out anyway, its also convenient to whip out a couple of red top blood collection tubes, and have him pull some blood for you, then you can send it in on your own.
The first test, Biotracking, I've used about a dozen times and been very pleased with the results.
It's a blood pregnancy test for cattle, goats, sheep, elk, horses, bison, and deer. Although I can't imagine strolling outside to take a casual blood sample from my family bison or elk. People do ranch those animals and I'm sure its nice to know if they are with child too.
The gist of it is, you draw 2cc of blood put it in a red top blood collection tube, and mail it-regular post-- no need for ice or overnight shipping to either Biotracking or an affiliate lab near you, and it takes 27 hours from laboratory set up to reporting. You can be notified by telephone, mail, or email. I always have them email me. It's like Christmas, finding out if your cow or sheep is pregnant. Then if she isn't pregnant, it's like getting a lump of coal in your stocking.
The cost of the test is $2.40 per test for cattle, and $7.50 per test for sheep and goats, plus shipping. Last time I sent 4 samples off to Pennsylvania, and it cost me $3-$4. Very fast affordable, and frankly kinda fun! For an additional $3.65 you can have your cow tested for BVD and for $4.00 your goat tested for CAE. Get that all out of the way, and then keep that herd closed!

The second test, is one you hopefully will rarely--if ever--need but so important to know its out there nonetheless. This is a DNA test through Veterinary Genetics Laboratory,to look for the Y chromosome in your little heifer calf. Why would you look for the Y in an X? If that little cupcake was born a twin to a bull calf there is a high possibility that she is infertile. Cattle twins share blood supply and the male hormones will circulate through your heifer and usually makes her infertile. She is then called a freemartin. In about 10% of cases, however, the heifer is still fertile. When you think about the value of a cow ( you can't buy a good milk cow for much less than $1,000. Well maybe you can now because the market is shot, think in terms of 4-5 gallons of milk a day for 10 months each year at $5-6 per gallon and you get the idea of her worth.) spending $50 to have a definitive answer is worth it. It's a shame to just assume something and possibly butcher a good heifer. I can think of 2 would be cases off the top of my head where the heifers were breedable. It's a good thing their owners checked.

You'll need 8-10cc blood in a purple top tube. They can test cattle, alpaca, goats, sheep and llamas. Cost is $50.

Lastly, a pregnancy test that is performed on a milk sample. Preg-O-Vet. Of course you could only use this on lactating cows, you'd still need to blood check heifers. This is amazing if truly as accurate as claimed. I'm waiting to hear some more actual reviews of it first, before I try it.
You can test as early as 20 days post breeding, and will get immediate results up to 15 minutes maximum.
Minimum order of 12 kits for $66.
I'm excited to try this one out. Talk about having a low cost, no skill tool at your disposal! I'm not needle phobic, but the first time I drew blood on the cows I really had to work up the courage and then could barely get the sample because I was literally shaking so hard in my purple muck boots!


  1. Sounds a bit more positive than "bumping" them.

    Congrats on your daughters good news.

  2. Thanks. Bumping is fun, too, but sometimes you need to know earlier on, you know? My daughter and I are doing an informal experiment. Last year we had 2 heifers and 2 bulls born. We noticed the heifers were easier to bump, seemed to be more active in utero. Gale is due on Feb. 2, and her calf is so easy to bump. I can see it kicking 20 ft away!
    Good news with our daughter leaves me happy for days!