Blood pregnancy testing has been a controversial topic for veterinarians across the country. Some veterinarians view the technology with disfavor because they believe it will put them out of business. Bob Vlietstra, DVM, West Michigan Veterinary Service in Coopersville, Mich., took a different approach and now doesn’t know how he’d run his practice without blood pregnancy testing.
Vlietstra started working with blood pregnancy testing in 2006. Then in January of 2008, Vlietstra started running a BioPRYN lab along with his veterinary practice. BioPRYN is a blood pregnancy test offered through Bio Tracking, LLC in Moscow, Idaho.
“Blood pregnancy testing is not a competing technology, it’s turned out to be an integral part of our reproductive programs,” says Vlietstra. “I don’t spend much time on pregnancy checks anymore. I spend a lot more time monitoring programs on the farms I work with.” Vlietstra explains that instead of arming cows he spends more time analyzing information and working with the dairy management team.
“Blood pregnancy testing required a philosophy shift for the farms and me. But at the end of the day you have to ask yourself am I palpation labor or am I a practicing veterinarian?” questions Vlietstra. “Blood pregnancy testing allows me the time necessary to maintain relevance.”
Vlietstra explains that a handful of cows are still palpated if there are cases of infertility or confusion on a test result. Blood pregnancy testing has an extremely high negative predictive value of 99.9%; therefore if a cow is diagnosed open then she is definitely open. The positive predictive value is also extremely high, approximately 95%. The slightly lower positive predictive value is caused by a small percentage of pregnant cattle that undergo embryonic loss after testing. Pregnant cattle that undergo embryonic loss will initially test positive but will later be found open because the embryo died. Fresh cows are also palpated to check for metritis and endometritis.
Reproductively the paradigm shift has paid off. Conception rates range from the low 30% to first-service conception rates of more than 60% routinely.
Since adapting blood pregnancy testing into his practice, Vlietstra says his producers demand he direct his attention to all aspects of the farming enterprise. “The focus of our practice is now outcome-driven. This has also allowed us to spend time with sick cows and calves and to perform indicated surgery rather than less predictive procedures,” he says. “As a result, outcomes on sick calves and surgery are so much better than before.” Time is also spent on preventing problems from occurring in the first place. Plus the farms Vlietstra works with have accurate and timely diagnosis of pregnancy.
Bottom-line is that blood pregnancy testing is economical, easy to do, efficient and management friendly. However, it does not replace good animal management or the veterinarian.