Portable Ultrasound Has Many Uses for the Beef Industry

Published on Mon, 06/28/2021 - 2:22pm

Portable Ultrasound Has Many Uses for the Beef Industry.

 By Heather Smith Thomas

 E.I. Medical Imaging has been the only company manufacturing animal-specific portable ultrasound systems in the U.S. since 1984. Most products in the veterinary field are rebranded from the human medical industry or manufactured overseas,” EIMI’s Staff Veterinarian Erika Wierman, DVM, says.

Other brands provide imaging for pregnancy diagnosis in cattle but can’t be used for much else. “We chat with potential customers about their facilities, goals, preferences—figuring out how to build the right system with the best transducers and accessories for their budget,” Wierman says.

“Beef producers working cattle through a chute generally prefer a laptop-style unit with a monitor that can be set up chute-side—we also offer self-contained units worn around the waist and used with goggles. Our newest model, the IBEX LITE HR, is small with a flush-mount monitor that can be worn in a hip sling or hung from the rails of a chute.

“We have options for streaming ultrasound images to mobile devices (or to a larger monitor, TV, or projector) to share live exams with people a safe distance away.”  

The transducer, or “probe” on many cattle-oriented systems is often hardwired or permanently attached. “We offer the option of hardwired rectal probes or machines that accept interchangeable probes, making them useful for additional applications.”  

Ultrasound is also useful for carcass evaluation, such as carcass merit scanning—for purebred breeders submitting numbers to the Ultrasound Guidelines Council (UGC), a USDA certification for live carcass evaluation in cattle for reproductive quality, as well as a non-invasive tool in grading cattle. “Our L3ASE carcass probe is a unique piece of equipment certified by the UGC to submit data and images necessary for determining those carcass numbers,” says Wierman.

“Our other specialty probe is our OPU (ovum pick-up) transducer, used for trans-vaginal oocyte aspiration in IVF (in-vitro fertilization).”

With cattle, ultrasound is used primarily for reproductive work—to confirm pregnancy, fetal gender, fetal age, ovaries, etc. “Our curved rectal probe was designed specifically for beef cattle. Its lower frequency sound waves penetrate deeper into the abdomen and provides a wider field of view—a pie-shaped image rather than a straight, rectangular slice. That lets us see pregnancies that would be out of reach with a traditional linear probe,” she says.

“Beef cattle veterinarians and technicians like our arm-free scanning. Putting their arms into many cows often leads to fatigue and overuse injuries. We created a handle the rectal probe snaps into, allowing operators to insert probe and handle without their arm. Our ICE (IBEX Customizable Extension) has a flexible section in the middle, allowing the operator to choose the angle of bend that works best for them.”

Ultrasound is also used for screening calves—checking lungs for signs of early or subclinical respiratory disease. As well, veterinarians use portable ultrasound to evaluate teats for mastitis, musculoskeletal injury, visualize abscesses, and for transabdominal applications such as ultrasound-guided biopsies of the liver.

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