Application of an ELISA Milk Pregnancy Test in Beef Cows

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ContentsPregnancy-associated glycoproteins (PAG) are secreted by the binucleate giant cells of the ruminant placenta and enter maternal circulation at the time of placental attachment. The IDEXX Milk Pregnancy Test (IDEXX, Westbrook, ME) detects a subset of PAG in milk. Although designed as a management tool for dairy cows, there is potential for using the milk PAG test in beef cows. Our objective was to compare the performance of the milk PAG ELISA with a gold standard method for pregnancy diagnosis and determine the agreement between milk and serum PAG analysis in lactating beef cows. Angus and Angus-crossed cows (n = 332) from two Michigan beef herds were enrolled in this study. Cows were subjected either to timed artificial insemination followed by exposure to a bull or exclusively exposed to a bull. The bulls and cows were separated 30 days prior to examination. Serum and milk samples were collected and submitted within 24 h of collection to a commercial laboratory for PAG analysis using the IDEXX Milk Pregnancy Assay (milk) and the IDEXX Bovine Pregnancy Assay (serum). Concurrently with milk and serum collection, each cow was examined transrectally by palpation or ultrasonography. When compared to transrectal examination, the performance (and 95% confidence intervals) of the milk PAG ELISA was sensitivity of 99.7% (99.0–100.0%) and specificity of 80.8% (65.6–95.9%). The lower specificity is likely due to the low prevalence (9.9%) of open cows (n = 30) in the herds examined. Of the 332 cows examined, 1.8% (n = 6) were classified as rechecks using the milk PAG ELISA. Results of the milk and serum PAG ELISA were in high agreement (kappa coefficient = 0.91). The milk PAG ELISA was accurate in predicting pregnancy status using milk collected from beef cattle between days 37 and 125 post-insemination and may be useful for aiding management decisions in beef herds.

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