Technology solutions to the specific challenges of heat detection in smaller herds

Author: Iain Dalton (IfA) - October 2, 2017

The use of sensor technology to detect oestrous is not limited in its value to large dairies with high cow numbers, but is equally valid in small herds with limited number of cows but for different reasons.

Cow in heat mounting. 

Numerous factors affect the expression of heat including, housing arrangement, floor surface, feet and leg problems and status of herd mates. The number of mounts a cow receives increases with the number of cows that are in heat simultaneously up to about 3–4 cows in heat. Cows that are themselves in heat, coming into heat or were recently in heat are most likely to mount a cow that is in heat. Cows that are pregnant show less interest in mounting other cows that are in heat. In smaller herds, with lower numbers of open cows, the likelihood of more than one cow being in heat on any given day becomes less, consequently, making heat detection more difficult. In addition to this lack of mounting mates, small herds face specific problems which can lead to extended calving intervals, including labour availability, possible housing deficiencies and shorter oestrous caused by higher yields. 

The 4D4F reproduction group details the different technologies available to cow managers to address this issue. The sensors can monitor cows 24/7 and produce daily action lists for cow managers informing them of cow identity and optimum time for insemination.

With a benefit of 4 euros per day from reducing calving interval - a 100 cow herd reducing calving interval from 420 to 400 days with the use of sensors monitoring 24/7 will see an 8,000 euro increase in profits and will in addition benefit from lower veterinary treatments costs and lower labour requirements.