Ultrasonography in Bovine Gynecology


dovinevet International, Bovine Ultrasound Services and Herd Management, Calle de la Mecanica, 9, Huesca, 22006, Huesca, Spain

department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Faculty of Veterinary and Experimental Sciences Catholic University of Valencia,

San Vincente Martir, Spain

*Corresponding author. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it


The need to use or not the ultrasound in bovine gynecology is being discussed all over the world. Although ultrasonography has been proposed as a collateral examination in bovine reproduction (Pierson et al., 1984a, b; Pierson et ah, 1986; 1987) for about 30 years, about 40% of the veterinaries working in gynecology (Gnemmi et al., 2005), use this tool.

Why is this technique so hard to succeed in boring? Are there “scientific” reasons that do not recommend its use? Is it still possible to deal with bovine gynecology, without using this teclmique? What services should “offer” to customers? These are just some of the questions that are asked when we talk about ultrasonography applied to bovine reproductive management.



The ultrasound units can be divided into non-portable and portable models.

The non-portable units are tools of great bulk and weight (20-30 kg), which on the one hand guarantee an extraordinary image quality, on the other they are not usable easily in field conditions, but they can find their place by working in fixed positions, or in the research area.

The portable units, in turn, can be divided into portable and ultra-portable. The weight of these units it is between 3.0-12.0 kg. Higher weight instruments require a transport trolley and, normally, line current: both situations limit their use in the field.

In conditions of extensive breeding, where the animals are subjected to gynecological examination in fixed locations, these instruments still find their place of use. Even the power supply problem can be overcome brilliantly, using an inverter and then a 12-volt battery.

Today there are 3.0-5.0 kg portable units, with good portability and autonomy, being equipped with an internal battery (2.5-4 h of work). This is a new generation of instruments, which have all the qualities of nonportable units, also guaranteeing less weight and a smaller size. They have LCD screens, some even touch screens.

The ultra-portable units de facto have allowed the use of ultrasonography in filed condition. The weight of these machines ranges from 850 to 2000 g.

The first “ultra-portable” unit for farm animals, entered in Europe in the mid-90s (Gnemmi et al., 2005; 2006; 2011): it was a unit of 5500 g. There are many ultra-portable units available on the market today: the price ranges from € 3500 to € 12,000. They are all units with LCD screens, some are not equipped with a built-in screen, but they using cameras inserted in a device similar to a pair of glasses or use a portable screen (even wrist and fixed with a Wi-Fi comiection). Some have the possibility of using different types of probes, while others, only mount a linear probe, sometimes sectoral, for endorectal use, multifrequency (5.0-10.0 MHz), intended for use in gynecology. All these instruments are powered by a battery, which offers a variable working autonomy (2.5-7.5 h). These are very practical, light and space-saving instruments that are well suited to every work situation (Fricke et al., 2005; Gnemmi, 2010).


When you need to buy an ultrasound machine, you need to do a business plan, which is to verify exactly the cost-benefit of the purchase. Based on this study may be possible to decide which ultrasound unit to buy. We need to analyze several points:

  • • Financial aspect. How much money I have available? Is it more convenient to rent the money at a bank, or use the money I have available? The instrument is normally amortized in 3-12 months, based on the number of ultrasonographic examinations performed by the professional. It has been calculated that it takes less than 3 h of work a month to amortize the instrument, within tax amortization times (7 years) (DesCoteaux et al., 1998; Filteau et al., 1998; Gnemmi 1999; 2001).
  • • Practical aspect. How many hours a day, a week, a month and a year do I intend to use the ultrasound unit? What kind of sendee can I offer already now? What kind of services can I offer for the next 3-6-12 months? Do I intend to carry out ultrasound scans only of the reproductive apparatus, or to carry out extra genital scans? Only in cattle or even in other species? (Gnemmi, 1999).
  • • Economical aspect. What is the fee per hour of ultrasound work and/or ultrasound examination carried out? What is the break-even and what is the pay-back of this investment?

The ultrasound scanners are fairly simple instruments, consisting of a screen, a probe and a keyboard.

The screen: The screens were originally cathode ray tube, now they are LCD screen: this choice has made it possible to lighten the ultrasound units considerably, at the same time guaranteeing a remarkable image quality. Working outdoors, especially in summer, you may encounter difficulties in seeing the image on the screen: this problem can be solved by resorting to an integrated system of cameras mounted on special glasses, or more simply can use small black cardboard cones, which applied on the screen allow you to limit the noise derived from the light, or may be possible to use various protection systems.

The keyboard: In some cases, it is extremely simple, while in others, it is comparable to a computer keyboard. In all the instruments there are commands, which allow to fix the image (and possibly to memorize it), to change the brightness of the screen and to improve the contrast in specific points.

The probes: In bovine gynecologic are used endo-rectal probes of 5.0-8.0 MHz, linear (straight or curved) or sectorial: the linear are substantially easier to use, especially for those who are beginners, the latter at the same frequency allow to work at a greater depth.

Microconvex probes are also available, both for endo-vaginal use and for endo-rectal use Increasing the frequency reduces the depth of action of the probe but increases the definition. In practice, the higher the emission frequency, the shorter the wavelength of the ultrasounds produced, so we will have a lower depth of action, but a better definition: a 7.5 MHz probe, allows to better highlight follicular structures even of 3-4 mm, at a depth of 4-5 cm, while a 5 MHz probe, will allow to highlight follicular structures of 7-8 mm, at a depth (greater) of 8-10 cm (Table 2.1).

  • [1] ABSTRACT Ultrasound is an indispensable tool today for the reproductive managementof cattle (dairy and beef). It is a collateral examination, which by itselfcannot and does not pretend to be the answer to the reproductive problemsof the fann. Ultrasound can reduce the margin of error encountered withthe manual evaluation of the uterus and ovaries, a margin of error that isonly partially attributable to individual capabilities. This extraordinary technique allows for real-time responses in anyenvironmental condition, as it is a flexible teclmique. It is a teclmique thatis easily repeatable and allows many sendees to be produced on farms.Thanks to the introduction of ultrasound in the reproductive managementof the herd, it is possible to safeguard both the concept of animal welfareand that of food safety. This is mainly due to the accurate and timely use ofantibiotic and hormonal therapies, thanks to an extremely precise diagnosis,as only ultrasound can achieve.
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