Think carefully before investing in automated heat detection
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Carefully analyze dairy reproduction technologies

August 30, 2013
POSTED BY: Richard Wallace | DVM, MS | Managing Veterinarian | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

Over the years, science has delivered reproduction management technologies to help dairy producers become more efficient and productive. Here’s a closer look at two of those: timed artificial insemination and automated heat detection systems.

Get cows serviced

The overall goal of any reproductive program or technology is to get cows pregnant. Every cow has an “allowable breeding space” — the days in milk in which it is profitable to get the cow pregnant. The number of days to first service is the biggest driver of potential breeding opportunities for a cow.

Synchronization programs benefit all herds, including those with automated heat detection systems, by ensuring all cows are inseminated soon after the end of the voluntary waiting period with a high likelihood of success. Pharmaceuticals used in synchronization programs also aid cows that don’t show normal heat activity as well as address ovarian and uterine health problems. This includes cows that are not ovulating, not expressing heat, have a pyometra or aren’t showing much activity during heats.

Making a change

If you are considering adopting an automated heat detection system, prepare to make changes in your herd’s breeding routine as well as a significant capital investment in equipment. Be sure to evaluate the cost of the equipment and how long it will take to break even.

Using automated heat detection technology could affect other parts of your reproductive program, too. Ask yourself these questions.

  1. What’s my herd’s current pregnancy rate?
  2. What’s my herd’s current heat detection rate?
  3. What do I think will improve and how much will it improve with a new program or system?
  4. What are the pros and cons of implementing it in conjunction with, or a replacement to, my current program?

Before making changes, review your breeding program with your veterinarian. No program is “one size fits all,” and your veterinarian can provide insights to help you give your cows their best chance for a timely pregnancy.

1 Hoard’s Dairyman. There’s nothing equal when raising heifers. Available at: www.hoards.com/E_calf_heifer/HR03. Accessed April 22, 2013.

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