What’s your heat detection strategy?
7 September 2020
Good heat detection programmes can have a major impact on overall herd reproductive performance
By Samantha Tennant, DairyNZ Developer
It’s difficult to find an agreed definition for good driving, people tend to have their own definitions, and most people think their skills are above average.
On farm, the same attitude can apply to reproductive performance, particularly heat detection. People may not realise or admit that their heat detection skills, or lack of, may be a constraint to improving their performance.
There is always room for improvement. Upskilling your team and adjusting your tactics will allow you to reap rewards for seasons to come.
Have a strategy, and a process
Many farmers will invest time to upskill their team on how to detect cows that are on heat but not necessarily outline the next steps between detection and insemination, and what to do after insemination. There is value in outlining all the processes surrounding heat detection and mating on farm and breaking it down into easy to follow steps.
Start with pre-matingDevelop your plan pre-mating
Outline your plan. When will the cows be tail painted? With what colour? When will you change colours? Set out who is responsible for monitoring which cow has cycled and what needs to be done with this information. When do you decide if you will complete any non-cycler treatment?
Train the team
Before mating starts, train new team members, and refresh others, about what they are looking for during heat detection. The pre-mating period is a good opportunity for team members to practice what they are looking for, with support.
Meet with the AI technician
Confirm timing and plan with the team who will meet the technician and what the process will be with drafted cows before and after they are inseminated. Identify whose responsibility it is and when they should re-apply tail paint and heat detection aids.
When mating starts
What heat detection aids will you use? Also consider who is responsible for their upkeep and how often they should be maintaining them.
Outline individual responsibilities for identifying cows on heat, and what they should do with that information. You’ll also need to clarify who is responsible for drafting cows that have been identified or suspected to be on heat. List how you will crosscheck that all cows identified have been drafted.
Discuss and decide what the farm policy is for any cows you are unsure about, and what steps to take before confirming whether to submit them or not. It is a good idea to include a ‘?’ next to their mating date if they are submitted, as this helps if they return after an odd time interval.
Review during mating
Finally, you’ll need to decide who is responsible for reviewing heat detection and when this happens. What is the contingency plan if there are any concerns during mating?
Heat detection is only one factor contributing to reproductive performance, but it is important to get right. It is valuable for even the most experienced teams to reassess their heat detection policy to be ready for the upcoming mating period.