Tag Archives: pregnancy testing

Pregnant or Open?–That is the question

Tate and Tim, bringing more cows

After the cows come down from summering on the Forest, it’s time to learn if they are pregnant. It’s hard to get them to pee on a stick, so our neighbor, Dr. Ben Noland comes with his ultrasound and checks for pregnancy. One after another, he calls out “Pregnant,” “Open,” or “Late.” “Late” means pregnant but calving outside the window of time when we want to be calving. We also vaccinate, check and sometimes replace eartags, and look at the cow’s general health. Most of the cows go into the pregnant pen. Some of the lates will be sold to other producers who calve later. Pregnancy testing is a key management practice since we don’t want to feed cows all winter only to learn that they won’t be raising a calf next summer. Thanks to Dr. Ben and our entire hard-working crew!

I TOLD you that I’m pregnant!

Eamon and McCoy at the chute

Dr. Ben with his ultrasound

Kyla checking eartags

Tate and Tim at the ready

McCoy with pregnant cows


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Pregnancy checking on Cyclone Rim

Ladies in waiting for Geri.

We raise our own replacement ewes from the best of our Rambouillet commercial ewes. We select about 1500 of these ewes, checking them for fine consistent wool, good body type, twinning, open faces, and other traits. The rest of the ewes, who are good but not as good, are bred to Hampshire (blackface) rams. We breed the replacement moms to the Rambouillet rams that we also raise.
When these lambs are born in May, they are more vulnerable to harsh weather conditions than the cross-bred lambs, who have hybrid vigor. The twin and triplet lambs are more at risk since their Mom has multiple lambs to care for. We have lambing sheds where we can give the ewes and their multiple lambs extra care and shelter. It is key to know which ewes are carrying the valuable and vulnerable twins and triplets.
Luckily for us, we can call on Optimal Veterinary Services to test our ewes mid-pregnancy. We set up our corrals, and Geri Parsons’ testing tent, on top of Cyclone Rim—a high range on the Red Desert. That’s where Avencio and his sheep are. The winter has been dry, so we have moved up chasing snowdrifts for water for the sheep. Geri, and her partner, Dr. Cleon Kimberling, “have lab, will travel”. Doc didn’t come this time (too far to ride his bike!), but we gathered employees and family members to work as the ground crew. We were lucky to have good weather with almost no wind—not always the case on Cyclone Rim!
Geri set up her tent next to the chute. As each ewe stopped, she checked them with an ultrasound machine, then called “single”, “twin”, “triplet”, and occasionally “open”! We then marked each ewe. The ewes pregnant with multiples will be sorted into a separate bunch when we shear in a few weeks. Then they will head to the lambing sheds for TLC.

Cora and Sadie on the job

view from the back

guard dog on the job


Siobhan and Tiarnan sorting

Tiarnan in Geri’s chute

Siobhan at the chute

Tiarnan with the sorting flag

Pat and Tiarnan behind the sheep

Meghan and Oscar working the chute, Geri’s tent in place

Brian working the chute

A perfect day on Cyclone Rim

Maeve,Meghan and Tiarnan

Day’s end





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Dr. Warner McFarland making a life-altering determination

It’s the time of year when we pregnancy check the cows. Dr. McFarland uses a combination of ultra-modern ultrasound goggles and old-fashioned palpation to determine if the cow is pregnant (the best option), open (the worst option) or late. He calls out his judgement, one after another, as the cows step into the chute for their pregnancy test. The pregnant cows will spend the winter in Laramie, eating hay and gestating. The open cows will be sold–either to become hamburgers or to be given another chance to breed. The lates are sold to someone who likes the cows, and likes to calve later. Our calendar for calving is fixed by the seasons and by our grazing permit on and off dates. We can’t calve too early, or we will surely meet with cold and snow (still a possibility). We can’t calve too late, or the cows will already be on the National Forest permit. If the calf survives predators, it will still be young and small when we ship in the fall. The calves were sorted and shipped a few days ago, so now it is time to start the cycle anew.

Brittany, bringing up the cows on Fancy, an adopted wild horse.


Pat and Warner, talking cattle

the dogs think they could be helpful…if only


Pat and Jeff in a stare down with a cow

and pregnant!



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To lamb or not to lamb, that is the question

If it’s March, it must be time to pregnancy test. We breed the best of our Rambouillet ewes to Rambouillet rams, thereby ensuring a new crop of replacement ewe lambs, as well as their brothers/cousins. Since purebred whiteface lambs are more vulnerable at birth, especially the twins, we pregnancy check the moms so that the ewes carrying twins can lamb in the sheds. The rest of the Rambouillet ewes are bred to our Hampshire rams. Their lambs have hybrid vigor and usually do fine with drop lambing on the range. Our friend Geri Parsons from Optimal Livestock Services comes up each March at mid-pregnancy to check the ewes and call out “single”, “twins”, “open” and even “triplets”. Meghan and her crew appropriately marked the ewes with a paint dab on their heads to signify their status for later sorting. Geri usually braves chill winds and long drives for several days to accomplish this task. Here’s some photos of this year’s pregnancy checking.

Ewes, waiting for the verdict

Pepe at the chute, Geri’s office in the tent



Chris bringing up the ewes

Pregnancy testing crew–Sam the Border collie, Modesto, Maeve, Meghan, Pepe, Tiarnan, Geri, Chris


the view from Eagle’s Nest, looking east



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And what were YOU doing in June?

Heifer waiting for Doctor Ben

Heifer waiting for Doctor Ben

We are lucky to have two young veterinarians, Dr. Ben Noland and Dr. Hallie Noland, in our community. They have opened up Sage Veterinary Services near Baggs, which means that–much as we love them–we don’t have to depend on vets in the distant burgs of Rawlins, Craig and Steamboat Springs. Dr. Ben showed up to pregnancy check our heifers. I told him that he didn’t have to worry about his wife criticizing his dirty clothes at the end of the day.

At breakfast, McCoy informed his dad that he’d rather help preg check than go to kindergarten. Eamon had to explain the new reality to McCoy.


That's Dr. Ben at the "rear", with Eamon and Chad assisting.

That’s Dr. Ben at the “rear”, with Eamon and Chad assisting.

She's awaiting the verdict that will determine her future.

She’s awaiting the verdict that will determine her future.


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Some are lambing, some are still pregnant

Enjoying the sunshie

Enjoying the sunshine

ewes, lambs and bulls

ewes, lambs and bulls

Pregnancy testing ewes on the Red Desert

Pregnancy testing ewes on the Red Desert

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Posted by on March 21, 2016 in Animals, Cattle, Sheep


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Optimal Veterinary Services works its pregnancy testing magic

Geri getting her gear ready

Geri getting her gear ready

Banjo ewes waiting their turn

Banjo ewes waiting their turn

It’s the time of year when we pregnancy test and vaccinate the ewes in order to get everything organized for lambing. Gerri Parsons from Optimal Veterinary Services came with all her gear and informed us with her cries of “Single”, “Twins”, “Triplets” or the dreaded “Open”. Gerri’s magic with the ultrasound allows us to manage the ewes with mulitple lambs with more feed. We plan to lamb most of these through our new lambing sheds near Dixon. Last year, we were able to save extra lambs when a big spring storm hit, since it is often the twins who are lost to bad weather. The preg testing must be done mid-gestation, so Gerri, Meghan and our crew spent an intense several days studying, marking and handling the ewes.

Geri's office (behind the water barrels)

Geri’s office (behind the water barrels)

Avencio bringing up the sheep

Avencio bringing up the sheep

Brittaney and Cassie bringing up the ewes

Brittany and Cassie on the Red Desert


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Optimal Livestock Services and the pregnant ewes

Geri Parsons, Optimal Livestock Services

Geri Parsons, Optimal Livestock Services

Pregnancy testing is one of the veterinary services offered by Optimal Livestock Services–Dr. Cleon Kimberling, veterinarian, and Geri Parsons, vet technician, proprietors.  We ask them to pregnancy test our ewes who are expecting white-faced lambs.  When we know which ewes are carrying twins, we can manage them separately so that they can get extra nutrition and care.  At lambing time, we can make sure they have better shelter because the white-faced lambs are more vulnerable at birth than the cross-bred lambs which have black-faced Hampshire fathers.  You old ag majors remember the lessons about “highbred vigor” which results when different types of sheep, or cows or whatever, are mixed.  The purebreds are less hardy, but they are the lambs which grow into our replacement ewes (or at least the females do).  We need both.

Geri recently showed up to check our ewes, who currently reside on the Red Desert, north of Wamsutter, Wyoming.

Meghan and Pepe bringing in the ewes

Salomon, Meghan, Pepe and Eamon bringing in the ewes

Pepe and Maeve, at work

Pepe and Maeve, at work

Siobhan and Sadie, corral help

Siobhan and Sadie, corral help

Eamon and Tweed, bringing up the ewes

Eamon and Tweed, lending encouragement

preg testing crew:  Richar, Salomon, Pepe, Eamon Geri and Meghan (and Sharon behind the camera!)

preg testing crew: Richar, Salomon, Pepe, Eamon Geri and Meghan (and Sharon behind the camera!)


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