Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder

Pregnancy - Advanced


Cattle are the main species of interest.



Cattle in the last trimester of pregnancy may have a distended abdomen, especially if they are carrying multiple foetuses. 

Heavily pregnant cattle do not travel well. They are prone to heat stress, metabolic diseases, are easily exhausted, and are at risk of aborting. Cattle more than 6 months pregnant at time of departure are usually excluded from the export process. Manual pregnancy testing by an experienced veterinarian is usually done to assist this. However, heavily pregnant animals may occasionally be mistakenly exported. This is typically as a result of errors in data recording (incorrect records of service dates or animal identity), errors in staging of pregnancy, following failed attempts to terminate pregnancy, or where animals are incorrectly recorded as having been ovariectomised and thought to be unable to get pregnant.

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Pregnancy of six months or more may be detected by ballottement through the right abdominal wall, or by rectal palpation. Differential diagnoses include vagal indigestion, bloat, gastrointestinal accidents, and naturally pendulous conformation of the abdomen. Premature lactation is seen in pregnant and non-pregnant cattle exported by sea and is not necessarily an indication of advanced pregnancy.


Apply special care and handling.


Apply accurate pregnancy testing and record keeping in initial selection screening. Follow this with assessment of abdominal profile and double checking the pregnancy status of any animal with a distended abdomen.