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.


Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
KEQ #8

KEQ #7
KEQ #6

KEQ #5

KEQ #4

The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

KEQ #3

*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

KEQ #1

Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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