News & Advice

Early scan – when and why would you bother?

Nov 3, 2015 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare, Dairy Farm Reproduction, Farm systems

Dave Curnow, Anexa FVC Ngatea Veterinarian

In a season with low payout it may seem counter intuitive to consider this option but given the value of the information gathered it makes great economic sense. This is why more than 50% of our clients already do early scanning. 

What is involved? 

Your herd will require two scans; one early and one late. 
The first scan is booked six to eight weeks after the end of AB. The timing of this scan is very important. This scan identifies those cows pregnant during the AB period. 
The second and final scan involves rechecking only those cows not pregnant at the first scan and is done at least six weeks after bull removal. A herd with a 70% 6-week in calf rate would expect to rescan 20 to 25% of the herd. If you have concerns over a herd with early pregnancy losses then rescanning of the entire herd would be worth considering. The basis for this is fairly straightforward: grazing cost/week x number of weeks dry = cost per cow not in calf (you don’t have to find many of these cows to pay for the rescan). 

What are the benefits of early scanning? 

  • Makes you money 
  • Ability to dry off on confirmed calving dates 
  • More milk in the vat 
  • Set your cows up better for next season 
  • Helps plan feed over late lactation 
  • Adds value to potential stock sales 
  • Good data helps improve herd reproduction 
  • Get maximum benefit from the job 

If you are interested and would like to know more read on! 

  • Ability to dry off on due calving dates 
    More milk in the vat = more money. Why dry off a cow in March that isn’t calving until September? The difference between feeding a milking and a dry cow is ~ 6kg DM. At 30cents/kg DM this is $1.80 / day. Also remember that your later calvers will likely be the highest producers in the herd later in the season. 


  •  Set your cows up better for next season 
    – Dry off and manage transition period based on due to calve date. 
    – Earlier calving cows take longer to eat their daily ration and can’t compete with later calving cows at the end of lactation and during the dry period. The end result is earlier calvers tend to be lighter and later calvers often too fat at calving. 
    – Earlier calvers in low BCS at calving = less production + time to cycle + potentially more animal health issues. 
    – The “too fat” late calvers are at higher risk for metabolic issues. Even if they have no health problems they have been dry for too long which is a cost of feed you haven’t been getting a return on in the vat. 
  • Added value to potential stock sales 
    – Cows verified in calf to AB are worth more if you wish to sell them. 
    – Knowing late calvers earlier gives you more options. 
    – Early culling decisions can be made after the first scan, so you can consider older low producing cows for culling around Christmas time, before the cull cow price drops and the drought arrives. 
  • Allows forward planning of feed budgets over final half of lactation 
    Work to target dry off based on scan results: 
    -Ensures a net financial return on feed related spending. 
    – Reduces feeding of expensive (i.e. supplement) feeds to dry cows. 
  • Good data is the basis for incremental improvements in your herd reproduction 
    Early scanning allows: 
    – A detailed report (referred to as a fertility focus report) to be done. 
    – You to focus on areas of your biggest potential returns. 
    – You to identify areas where you are performing well. 
  • Net results 
    – Advice aimed at returning the most “bang for your buck”. 
    – Impact of management changes can be assessed. 
    For instance, just stating a herd empty rate is of little value unless considered in context e.g. 10% empty. 6 week calving rate 60%. Mating length 14 weeks versus 12% empty. 6 week calving rate 80%. Mating length 9 weeks. Which herd will make you more money? 
  • Value added service (tied to early scanning) 
    For those herds performing an early scan, Anexa FVC can: 
    – Provide a technician to record data directly (Infovet, MINDA, palm pilot) and upload to MINDA. You can also keep your own records if required. 
    – Prepare a reproduction report which will be discussed with you by your Veterinarian. This report will be standardised so key areas can be identified and benchmarked (anonymously) against local results and industry targets. 
    If you are interested in this service please contact your Anexa FVC clinic to discuss this with a veterinarian. 
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