Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Using Estrotect Patches and AntelBio's ELISA Milk Pregnancy Test

In a previous post I wrote that Royal had been put in a pasture with Ebony and her heifer Tiggy on June 18.

I put two Estrotect patches on Ebby and observed them twice daily when I fed her.  When new, they look like the one above.  The red line and "Estrotect" tell you that there is red underneath the silver; the patches come in various colors.  (When one is removed, it leaves a sticky patch on the hair, as above.)

By June 26, this is what Ebby's two patches looked like.  There's a lot of mud on them, but you can see that most of the silver is still intact with very little red showing.

Estrotect's site shows a patch that looks like these, minus the mud.  The caption says "Don't breed."  That's because they assume you're using the patches to time artificial insemination, and this coloration on the patch shows that the cow is not in "standing heat" where she allows other animals to mount her because she's ready to be bred.
For our purposes, these patches mean "She isn't bred."

Meanwhile, we had to go away for two days, and I wanted some reliable information on what was transpiring between Royal and Ebby while we were gone.

So I pulled off the loosened upper patch, cleaned the lower one, and applied a new one over it (top photo).  I wanted to replace the patch, but it was stuck on so well that it would not come off.  I couldn't complain.  That's what makes these things work--because they stick on like they're glued.

We were gone June 28th and 29th.  On the 30th, this is what Ebby's new patch looked like.  A patch with even less red than this one on Estrotect's site bore the caption "Breed."  For our purposes, it said "She's bred!" All that remained was to wait 35 days from June 29th to collect a milk sample from her and test it.

AntelBio can perform an ELISA pregnancy test on a milk sample from a cow (this obviously doesn't work for first calf heifers).  This avoids the cost of a farm call and having an invasive palpation done on your newly pregnant cow--a real win/win situation.  In addition, although the website still says the test can be run 35 days post-breeding, when I called to find out more about it, the lady I talked to said the test is actually accurate at 28 days, and they will be updating the website to reflect that.  That is earlier than any vet I've ever heard of can palpate a pregnancy.

What is ELISA?  AntelBio's site says: ELISA (pronounced E-LIZA) stands for Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay.

  • Measures pregnancy-associated glycoproteins (PAGs), to determine pregnancy status. PAGs are released by the placenta during pregnancy and are specific to pregnancy unlike some other chemical indicators, such as progesterone.
  • Uses ELISA technology, a rapid and trusted diagnostic method.
  • High level of accuracy (98%), comparable to palpation, ultrasound, and blood testing.
  • Effective from 35 days post breeding until dry-off.
  • Available within 24 hours of samples arriving at DHI lab.
  • Quickly access results online through a personalized database system.
  • Results reported as pregnant, open or recheck based on the level of the PAG’s present.
How do you submit a sample?

After talking to the helpful customer service representative, I decided to order a $14 kit for my first time.  It came promptly.  The kit includes a postage paid box (the photo is farther down) for returning the milk samples, clear instructions, a Sample Submission Form, and 5 lockable milk tubes containing preservative.  There is no need to freeze or refrigerate the milk samples.

The kit is made to send off five samples at once, but it worked fine to send off just one, too.  I saved the other four tubes along with photocopies of the sample submission form and a copy of the instructions for future use.

Here are the instructions.

Here's a tube with the preservative in it.  You do not need to wear gloves, but since my hands were rough, I did.

Sorry, I couldn't manage to photograph myself while milking with one hand and holding the tube in the other!  You'll just have to take my word that the orange stuff in the tube is actually Ebby's milk already picking up color from the preservative.  It is NOT a melted creamsicle!
Here is the tube, locked and shaken to thoroughly mix in the preservative.
To carry the tube back to the house, I put it in an empty ProBios jar with a spare tube (in case I goofed) laying in the bottom).  Since I drive out to the barn in my Doodad, I didn't have to worry about the vibrations causing the tube to bounce off the seat.

In the background you can see the handy brochure explaining the test, which I was offered when I placed the order.  The same information is on the website, but I'm old-fashioned and like something I can hold in my hot little hand without running into the computer.

I was sure to mark the tube with Ebby's tattoo and name, also on the Sample Submission Form.  The foam lining that came in the box held one tube just as securely as it would five.

I covered the tube with the second piece of foam and added the Sample Submission Form.  It does cost a total of $9.50 to test one sample, and I received the bill after my results.  However, the total cost for this preg-check--kit and test--was $23.50.  I can't get a vet to drive up our driveway for anywhere near that!  The next four tests will cost less because I already have the tubes.  It will be $9.50 per test plus shipping, probably under $15 per test.

Finally, I sealed up the box and ran it to the Post Office on Monday, Aug. 4.

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, I got an email that my results were waiting on the website.

There it was . . . PREGNANT!  It was that easy and that quick for AntelBio to verify what the Estrotect patch made me suspect:
Royal is going to be a daddy!   *cow*

The customer service representative explained that the value of 2.184 does not really mean anything.  They have not been able to correlate numbers with length of gestation or expected due dates, but thanks to Estrotect, we have an idea on that, too.  We should be seeing Royal's first calf on the ground somewhere around April 4, 2015.

Granted, this isn't the same as becoming grandparents, but it's pretty exciting, nevertheless.  We know this calf will be obligate A2/A2, non-chondro and non-PHA.  Beyond that, we'll just have to wait and see whether it will be a heifer or a bull, polled or horned, red or black.  But we've answered the two important questions:
  • Is she pregnant?
  • When is she due?
The rest is just icing on the cake!

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