Pregnancy testing

Ref Code: CAT30


Teaching - 3 (Instructor : student ratio 1:3)

Research - 4


The detection of pregnancy by use of manual palpation per rectum.

Alternatives to animal use

Students must receive prior instruction on the anatomy and physiology of the area. Slides and videos may be appropriate. The technique must be practised on abattoir specimens and/or an artificial cow prior to use of live animals.

Details of procedure

Only mature cows of quiet temperament should be used for instruction. They must be individually identified by ear tag or freeze brand prior to use in a school.

They must be restrained to prevent lateral or forward movement, preferably with a vet gate. Cows must have current Leptospira vaccination. If the EBL or Pestivirus status of the cattle in use has not been established, a new glove should be used with each cow to avoid the possible transmission of diseases per rectum. Cattle known to be carriers of EBL or Pestivirus should not be used. Cows showing vaginal discharge (other than oestrus discharge) should not be used.

Drugs, chemicals or biological agents

Obstetrical lubricant or similar product should be used to provide lubrication.

Impact of procedure on wellbeing of animal(s)

Repeated and/or inexpert practice of the procedure may result in severe straining, ballooning of the rectum, bleeding or thickening of the rectum. Thickening is less likely to occur in animals accustomed to rectal palpation.

To reduce the impact of the procedure, students should be asked to have fingernails cut short, jewellery removed and to wear gloves with seams inside-out so that the seams are on the inside.

Reuse and repeated use

There should be a maximum five examinations per animal (three preferred) if used in the first hands-on session. Cows used in subsequent sessions may have a maximum of eight examinations (six preferred). Appropriate marking (using a proprietary stock marker) should be applied to each animal before examination to identify each examination. Cows may be used in one session per day and may be used on a second day after an overnight rest. They may be used for a maximum on two days in any one school. Reuse should only occur after assessment of the cow by a veterinarian or a qualified instructor.Cows not showing rectal thickening may be used at fortnightly intervals unless removed for some other reason. Cows which show evidence of thickening of the rectal wall should be withdrawn immediately and not used for a period of one month, after which reuse should only occur after assessment of the cow by the veterinarian or a qualified instructor.

Care of animal(s) during/after procedure

  1. During the school - cows showing any sign of stress during a school must be removed from the school. Any cow showing more than slight rectal bleeding, should be withdrawn immediately and not used until veterinary clearance has been given. Use of cows must be discontinued if they show frank blood, severe straining or ballooning of rectum.
  2. After the school - cows should be checked twice daily for the first two days after a school and once daily for a further five days. Records must be kept for individual cows of the incidence of discharge, other abnormal event or behaviour, or any treatment administered. An autopsy must be performed on any cow that dies unexpectedly following a school and the supervising AEC informed of the results as soon as practicable.

Pain relief measures

Normally none required.

Qualifications, experience skills or training necessary to perform this procedure

  • Demonstrators - veterinarian with appropriate experience or instructor approved by an AEC.
  • Students - experience in cattle handling. Familiarity with anatomy/physiology, competence using abattoir specimens and artificial cow.