Herd management and pregnancy testing workshop

I’ve learnt a lot about the technical aspects of testing cows and foetal aging.  Ian showed us with a sample from the meatworks where all the anatomy was and how to find the foetus.  We then moved to the practical application and testing cows in the chute.

Ian’s been good sharing information on the production side, explaining how you can structure your herd when you’re preg testing to ensure you get them in the right calving groups, and how that affects nutrition and seasonality.  It’ll definitely be good to fine tune this model at home to work towards a better result, profitability-wise.

Will Fordyce

Dr Ian Braithwaite (left) and Will Fordyce.

Will Fordyce, right, helps Greg Lennox to secure a preg testing glove to his arm.

NQ Dry Tropics’ LDC Senior Grazing Officer Brendan Smith helps Emily Page to secure a preg testing glove to her arm.

It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, I thought it was going to be more physically demanding. It’s good to know when there’s not a vet available that you can tell whether a cow is pregnant or empty.  

The workshop wasn’t all about pregnancy, and learning how to preg test.  We also did a lot of work on cash flow, herd management and stocking rates which are all really important areas to get right for the long term sustainability and profitability of our business.

Emily Page

Theory and practical skills


THE workshop, run by Dr Ian Braithwaite, focused on the theoretical and practical skills of pregnancy testing and foetal ageing in cattle, as well as discussions on how to increase livestock efficiency and performance, business profitability and landscape resilience.

It was part of an integrated program that the LDC Grazier Support Program is delivering throughout 2019. The program offers BBB catchment-wide preg-testing, conducted by recognised practitioners.

Any property within the BBB is encouraged to participate. The first 500 cows will be free of charge.

Conditions apply and participants will also be required to undertake a Herd Management Plan with an approved consultant of their choosing.

Take home messages:


  • Establishing the correct stocking rate is critical in optimising forage performance and maintaining animal performance while ensuring the sustained health and production of the grassland resources.
  • Effective managers balance forage production and animal performance for the long term by incorporating flexibility and contingency plans into their grazing operations to account for changing weather conditions, natural events, and variable livestock markets.
  • Stocking rates may be set appropriately by being mindful of these variables and planned by determining:
      • Forage demand: how much forage is required by the type and class of animals grazing the range or pasture unit.
      • Available forage: how much forage is produced during the year and how much is available for livestock consumption.
      • Duration – how long the animals will be using the area.
  • Profitability for the cow-calf producer starts with high pregnancy rates and a high percentage of the calves being conceived early in the breeding season.  A critical component of reproductive success is having sound, highly fertile bulls.
  • A proven method to determine the breeding potential of bulls is the Breeding Soundness Evaluation (BSE) system. The BSE is a relatively quick and economic procedure that can be performed by your veterinarian. It is a screening procedure that places bulls into categories of satisfactory, unsatisfactory, or deferred.

NQ Dry Tropics’ LDC Breeder management and pregnancy testing workshop participants, from left, Roxanne Morgan, Greg Lennox, Lyle Gillham, Dr Ian Braithwaite, Sheridan Callcott, Vivian Finlay, Emily Page, Ness Allen, Brendan Smith, Will Fordyce. The two-day workshop was held at Glenden Station, near Glenden.