Thanks to Julie Jarvis of Animal Cracker Farm, California, for allowing us to share this video.
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Choosing the right ultrasound probe
The only transducers (or probes) you should consider for goat pregnancy scanning are convex or microconvex. Which you pick depends on the type of goats you breed, and your prior scanning experience.
For lean and dwarf breeds, the microconvex probe is definitely the best choice because its higher frequencies deliver superior resolution. I’ve scanned Saanens and Toggenburgs with a microconvex and not had any issues with penetration. It is also easier to achieve good skin contact with a smaller transducer. For very large or bulky breeds, the convex may be a safer option, because it delivers better penetration. This is because it emits lower frequency ultrasound, and lower frequency sound penetrates further.
If you have been scanning for a while already and initially started on a machine equipped with a large convex probe, you may find the feel of the microconvex very unfamiliar and difficult to adjust to. You may also miss the slightly wider field of view that the large convex gives. If you know you are already accustomed to a larger probe, think carefully about whether you will be able to comfortably adapt to a smaller footprint.
Why is the Scan Pad more expensive than scanners on eBay?
There are a number of considerations here. The obvious answer is to do with the quality of the components, particularly the transducers, which are the most important and valuable part of your scanner. Another rather obvious one is the level of support; most people who buy from China on eBay already know that they will receive little or no support. In fact, none of the systems you see on eBay are really manufactured by the company that ultimately sticks its label on the machine (even if they end their listing with a photo of hundreds of scanners in a line and the message “Welcome to our factory!”). The salespeople know nothing about ultrasound, and the company has no ability to support equipment they did not make. However, the price is generally low enough that you may believe it’s worth the risk. If all you want is a yes/no pregnancy scanner, it may very well be.
One thing that most people do not consider, however, is ultrasound safety. The general perception is that ultrasound is safe – it can’t do any harm. However, this is thanks to regulation from bodies like the FDA, CFIA and EU, as well as training and diligence on the part of ultrasound users. Neither of these facts currently hold true, as people can now buy and operate ultrasound scanners without any prior training, and a large number of Chinese sellers flout FDA regulations on ultrasonic safety. These regulations stipulate that the mechanical and thermal indices (MI and TI) must be displayed on screen for the operator to know that they are scanning safely. These indices give the user an indication of the likelihood of causing a temperate rise or causing mechanical damage in the tissue that they are scanning. Small temperature rises don’t matter to your doe, but they can affect a tiny fetus which does not yet have a well developed blood supply to take heated blood away and cool the area quickly.
Since these parameters are missing from these low end imports, we can only assume that they are not being measured, which is very worrying.
The Scan Pad always displays the MI and TI on screen, and in addition, it controls your machine’s ultrasonic outputs to ensure that you can never exceed safe limits. If you adjust one parameter (frequency, for example) which would otherwise increase the amount of energy you are sending into your doe, the Scan Pad will automatically adjust something else to bring your MI or TI back down. You won’t even know it’s happening. This is because the Scan Pad has been designed with breeders in mind, who aren’t professional sonographers trained in ultrasonic outputs, and who will be primarily scanning for pregnancy. Given that pregnancy is such a sensitive time, it makes sense to simply ensure that the scanner limits the amount of energy sent into your doe.
If you are aware of and comfortable with any potential risks and you are only scanning your own animals, then that is fine. If you are planning on scanning any goats other than your own, though, you should be very wary about using a non-compliant ultrasound machine. When it comes to the law, the responsibility unfortunately lies squarely with the operator – not the supplier or the manufacturer. “I didn’t know” isn’t a defense, and if the import of your machine were to be investigated further, the tax avoidance that these same suppliers practice (they will declare ultrasound machines as “spare parts” with a customs value of $5 in order to escape tax and tariffs) certainly won’t help your case. The likelihood of any of this happening is very low, but all it takes is one person somewhere to accuse you of harming their animal.
The Scan Pad is not the only ultrasound machine that complies with FDA regulations. There are other excellent options, too. The important point is that if you plan to use your equipment seriously, buy from a reputable source.
- Online training course for goat pregnancy scanning
- David Harwood’s Veterinary Guide to Goat Health & Welfare – an excellent resource for goat breeders (no ultrasound):
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