With the arrival of spring or summer, thoughts of working cattle begin to stir in most beef cattle producers' minds. However, with the high cost of vaccines and dewormers, the amount of time it takes to round up the herd, and the aggravations associated with herd work, these are not often pleasant thoughts. The last thing a producer wants to do is add time and cost to an already difficult, expensive and exhausting day or days of work.

In this light, it is easy to see why one important management practice frequently overlooked or neglected by many beef producers is pregnancy examination. According to the 1997 National Animal Health Management Survey (NAHMS), only one-fifth of cow-calf producers have their cows checked for pregnancy although the benefits easily outweigh the cost.

The most obvious benefit of knowing which cows are open is cost savings. A pregnancy examination will typically average $5/head but carrying an open cow over the winter may cost several hundred dollars in hay alone (not to mention mineral, supplemental feed, vaccines and dewormers that add additional carrying costs). Knowing which females to sell allows one to make good marketing decisions such as:

1. Weaning calves early and selling culls when the cull market is high.
2. Selling open heifers when they are younger and still fit the feeder market.
3. Sorting off and feeding thin cows to bring a higher price and sell more pounds.

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