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Published August 19, 2013, 02:00 PM

Determining AI conception rates

Commercially available blood tests to predict pregnancy are accurate and an inexpensive tool cattle producers can use to determine their artificial insemination conception rate, according to new research conducted at South Dakota State University.

By: South Dakota State University Extension Service,

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Commercially available blood tests to predict pregnancy are accurate and an inexpensive tool cattle producers can use to determine their artificial insemination conception rate, according to new research conducted at South Dakota State University.

“The research showed that these tests are 87 to 93 percent accurate in the ability to correctly identify pregnant animals at 30 days after conception,” says George Perry, research lead, SDSU professor and SDSU Extension beef reproduction specialist.

The blood tests require no training to implement and cost less than $4 a sample.

Trustworthy results

Perry’s research set out to determine the accuracy of commercially available blood pregnancy tests at 30 days after conception — a window of time that would clearly inform cattle producers of their AI conception rates, even after a bull had been turned out with the cows.

“Truly knowing AI conception rates is critical to making improvements to a reproduction program, yet it is challenging for many producers,” says Perry, explaining that prior to the blood tests, producers relied on either transrectal ultrasonography, which meant hiring a professional — or labor-intensive heat detection.

“Producers’ only other option would be calving dates. We know those are not reliable. Cows that conceive within a couple of hours of each other can still calve up to three to four weeks apart,” Perry says.

To determine the tests’ accuracy, Perry and his team artificially inseminated a group of cows. For the next 30 days, they observed twice-daily for heat detection. Thirty days after conception, the team collected blood samples from each cow. A portion of each blood sample was tested by the three different available blood tests.

“The fact that all three tests were used on the same animals, at the same time made this research conducted at SDSU unique,” Perry says.

Tests results were then compared with the results of a transrectal ultrasound, which was also conducted on day 30.

“Statistically, all the tests performed similarly,” Perry says of the resulting 87 to 93 percent accuracy rate. “This study gives producers another tool they can use to gain knowledge and better manage their operations. Now, instead of hiring someone to preg check at 30 days and again at the end of breeding season, producers can just pay a professional to visit once.”

He adds that since several South Dakota-based labs run the tests, cattle producers can receive results within 72 hours or less of mailing them.

National recognition

Perry’s research received national recognition when a board of his peers at the American Society of Animal Science awarded his research with a Presidential Pick.

“Dr. Perry’s research is an excellent example of work that has a direct impact on beef cattle producers in South Dakota and has earned the recognition of other scientists. This meets our goal of conducting high quality applied research,” says Joseph Cassady, Animal Science Department head.

The committee reviewed Perry’s and more than 2,200 other abstracts and, based on scientific merit and overall interest, the committee selected Perry’s as one of only 30 to receive the prestigious award.

“I’m honored and excited,” Perry says. “As a researcher, we all think our research is interesting, but it’s exciting when others think it is valuable and interesting too.”

To learn more about using commercially available pregnancy tests to determine AI conception rates, visit with your local veterinarian or contact Perry at George.Perry@sdstate.edu.

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