Progressive Genetics is currently conducting a survey among farmers to gauge people’s views and experiences with milk pregnancy testing.

A relatively new service for Irish farmers in recent years, milk pregnancy testing has seen a surge in popularity in the past year – with some 100,000 tests taken in Ireland last year.

Speaking to AgriLand on the matter, Progressive Genetics milk recording manager Stephen Connolly said:

“We’re doing a survey on the milk pregnancy testing. We just want to do this survey to see if there’s anything we can do to improve the service or, if people are not using it, to make them aware of it.”

Commenting on milk pregnancy testing in general, Connolly explained:

Basically how it works is, if you’re doing milk recording, you tell the recorder which cows you want to pregnancy test – a list of five or 10 cows. They will mark it on the hand-held, put a sticker on them and, using the same milk samples will test them. So it’s very convenient, you don’t have to go taking an extra sample.

“If the cow is in calf 28 days or over it will tell you whether she is in calf or not. It goes to the lab and you’ll then get a report on the ICBF website or, if you’re with HerdApp, it’ll come straight through on the app, on the cow whether she’s in calf or not, and it’ll say when she was last inseminated.

“Farmers like it; it was up big time last year. Maybe Covid-19 had a hand in that; people might have been afraid of people coming in, but farmers do seem to like it,” he said.

The manager noted that there are advantages to the service, claiming: “You don’t have to sort out cows for the scanner; you’re just doing whatever number of cows and it’s less hassle.

“You won’t have the detail of the scanner and you still need to scan at times of the year – but lads seem to like it, even at the start of the breeding season, after 28 days, just to make sure everything is going OK to give a bit of a check.

“If they come back pregnant you know things are going alright.

The other thing is I’m a suckler farmer at home and I use it for the sucklers. If I’m a sucker farmer and I want to scan one or two cows, I can do it whenever I want; if I’m using AI, I know what’s gone 28 days and I can go and test them.

For this, he noted that the company does a postal service, adding:

“You can go on to the Progressive Genetics website, buy a pack of four or eight samples, pre-pay for it, we send it out in the post, then do it whenever you want – of a Saturday or in the evening time – and then send it into the lab. You’ll then get a text back saying whether it’s in calf or not.”

In terms of how long it takes, he said: “It probably takes about a day extra on the [normal] milk recording and then the pregnancy bottles sent out will depend on the post.”

Once it gets to the lab, the postage ones are tested that day, the milk recording manager said.

You won’t know if there’s twins or not, or that kind of detail, but it’s a good guide – most people only really want to know if they’re in calf or not – that’s the main thing.

“The survey wants to see are people happy or can we tweak it a bit to make it easier for the farmers to use the service or if we can make it a bit better,” Connolly concluded.

For those interested, the survey on milk pregnancy testig can be found here.