Computer advances may improve heat detection

ADVANCES in computer technology could be the solution for dairy farmers who are losing up to €170 per cow per annum because of undetected heats, resulting in later calving.

A trial on a farm in north Cork, using a newly developed meter that measures cow movement, has produced the most promising results yet for automated heat detection in cows.

Dairymaster’s MooMonitor was tested by Teagasc on the Ballydague farm, near Fermoy, in 2007.

Cows in heat show a higher level of activity, and the MooMonitor monitors and records movement of the animal in all directions.

During a six week monitoring programme, there was a positive heat detection rate of 82%, and an error rate of only 6.8%. Teagasc advisors, Stephen Butler and Mary Herlihy, who have been assessing means of identifying heat detection on cows, found promising results from the MooMonitor.

According to their research, unobserved heat in cows is contributing twice as many days open as infertility. Unobserved heat contributed to poor reproductive performance and economic loss. Low submission rates during the early part of the breeding season are a major cause of poor reproductive efficiency in seasonal calving systems.

While heat detection can be time consuming and tedious, the economic loss, due to the mean calving date slipping by one month from mid-February to mid-March, has been assessed at €170 per cow per annum.

Various forms of tail painting and paint stickers are also being assessed by Teagasc, as are pedometers that measure cow movement.

The latter are not extensively used here, because changes in cow movement to pastures vary too much from day to day.


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