Pregnancy Testing

When we bought our first does, the owner said he would breed them back after they weaned their kids. He delivered two does to us on the 4th of July. And we began our wait for kids. Along around December we were beginning to believe they weren’t bred. We brought in a friend’s buck, and he spent the first 10 minutes on our farm breeding every doe on the place.

We were amazed to learn there were no inexpensive tests for pregnancy. (The home (human) pregnancy test will not work because antibodies from goats are used in the human tests.)

There is a place, BioTracking in Moscow, ID you can send a goat's blood sample to– along with $15 – and find out with (they claim) a 97% certainty – if your doe is bred. (Actually their claim of 97% is for cows – and later in their FAQ they claim 7% to 8% inaccuracy with dairy cows. They make no claim for goats.) This process takes several days.

Rocky Mountain Instrumental Laboratories, Inc. in Ft. Collins, CO does a progesterone test for $20. According to their web site, "Progesterone testing has been found to be 98-99% accurate in predicting that a doe IS NOT PREGNANT, because a doe with a very low progesterone concentration (0.1ng/mL) more than a few days after ovulation, cannot carry a fetus to term. However, a high progesterone concentration (1.5ng/mL or more) is only 85-88% accurate in predicting that she IS PREGNANT. This is because a doe may be cycling in an abnormal manner or she may have been pregnant when tested, but later reabsorbed or aborted."

We decided to purchase a Renco Pregtone Ultrasound Pregnancy Detector, knowing it was not 100% effective. Actually we found it to be 100% certain determining if a doe is open when there is no tone. Unfortunately a tone does not prove a doe is bred. We found we were great finding a tone. And if the wand was in the correct location, we assumed a successful breeding had taken place. And many times we were extremely disappointed when, months later, no kids. According to a Renco advertisement, this machine provides "accurate and economical A-mode pregnancy diagnosis", is "portable and easy to operate"; and "improves breeding efficiency." In our opinion, it is better than nothing.

We went to one seminar where a vet demonstrated his ultrasound machine/technique. This was a trans-cervical device that appeared to us to be very painful for the goat and introduced the possibility of infection.

We checked with our vet, and he agreed to ultrasound one of our does. First he shaved her side. Then he did the ultrasound. He pronounced her open, so we took her home and put her with our buck. Two weeks later she kidded with twin girls. (In fairness to our vet, he had a horse jump out of the holding pen, injure himself, and had to be put down – just before he came in to do the ultrasound of our goat.)

We also went to John Edward's demonstration at a Showstopper Seminar. We were impressed at how rapidly he could determine pregnancy – to include not only number of embryos but also age of embryos.

We talked about buying an ultrasound. But we couldn’t justify the cost.

This year the justification fell into place. In late February, after weeks of trying to pull a doe through Ketosis (and two vet calls at over $150 each), the doe – and the 3 kids she was carrying – died. Three weeks later one of our skinny does started battling Ketosis. Just when we thought we had it licked, she died – as did the 4 kids she was carrying. (Last year one of our best does died of Ketosis. She was carrying quads.) Had we known these does were carrying multiple fetuses (more than twins), we could have adjusted our feeding program, ensuring they got more starches and less protein during the last month of pregnancy.

We determined at $500 a doe (and these three were more expensive than that) and $400 a kid we had, during a 12-month period we lost $5,900. We could buy an ultrasound for less than that.

We considered buying one off eBay, but we were scared they might have been refugees from the flood in New Orleans.

Then we found the Palm Scan Ultrasound for around $4,400 (including tax and shipping). Their advertisement suggests: real time or visual diagnosis of pregnancy in "B" mode; lightweight (600 gr.) with high resolution image; exact and early pregnancy diagnosis; and capacity to measure back fat and loin depth.

So we ordered one.

Then began the process of learning how to use it. The “manual” that came with it bordered on useless. We knew we were looking for a black, egg-shaped circle with a white spot in the middle. A search of the internet was less than successful. There just aren’t pictures posted to show you what you are looking for.

A friend of ours, Dr. David Gilliam of Walland, TN, bought the same machine shortly after we did. At a show in May we started ultrasounding does trying to learn how to use the machine.

Dr. Gilliam ordered (from a personal video recorder - the Archos AV500. You can get it in either the 30 GB or 100 GB size hard drive. David recommends the 100 GB since the price break isn't that great and he thinks it is more versatile with the larger hard drive. According to David, you would be well served to get the travel cables which are sold for an addition $14-15. The travel cables will make it so that you are tied to the TV docking station to record the ultrasound. The docking station has to be plugged in to an electrical outlet to allow AV IN or AV OUT to work. The travel cables remove that problem. Amazon has the AV500 and the travel cables.

When you get the device and get ready to record the ultrasound, the device is supposed to automatically detect the source video and automatically apply the correct video settings. Dr. Gilliam had to manually set the settings to black and white on the input menu. That is the only way that it will work.

Note: According to Debbie Gilliam, David will film the ultrasounding then spend hours in front of the big-screen television analyzing the pictures!

The Archos AV500 is going to be Pat’s Christmas present.

For those who only have a few goats, we highly recommend taking the bred does (or the ones who have been exposed) to your vet for an ultrasound. Buying an ultrasound would not be cost-effective with only a few goats. Each producer should determine for themselves what their break-even point is.

Does carrying multiple kids can be supported better nutritionally when we have that information and those not pregnant can be re-bred or put into 'dry' pens so they don't get too much nutrition for their dry condition.

Ken and Pat Motes
Clear Creek Farms
33 South Clear Creek Road
Fall River, Tennessee 38468
Phone: (931) 852-2167
Fax: (931) 852-2168

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