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Heat Detection Methods

Heat Detection Methods

We are launching our new heat detection system Moocall HEAT on Friday 16 March.

While this blog post doesn't go into that, you can learn more about it here: https://moocall.com/products/moocall-heat-1

Heat detection is one of the most important tasks in any cattle system.

Whether it’s beef or dairy, farmers need to play close attention during their breeding season to keep their calving compact.

Visual detection can only go so far and particularly as the season draws on, there are plenty of other jobs to do over watching for signs of mounting twice a day.

While some farmers prefer to not engage in active heat detection and leave it to a stock bull, you are taking a risk by not monitoring your herd closely.

Artificial insemination is becoming increasingly popular as stock bull genetics can only go so far.

While AI companies are constantly improving at the cutting edge of genetic progression and with recent Irish programs stipulating a 4 or 5 star rating for a sire, a stock bull is becoming a less attractive option.

Busy farmers have numerous options available to aid heat detection and increase submission rates:

Tail Painting

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Tail painting is a relatively affordable option compared to other methods

It makes the signs of mounting easier to detect, by using brightly coloured wax paint on the tailhead.

The paint needs to be reapplied every 2-3 weeks depending on conditions and ideally, multiple colours are used over the time for best results.

When cows are mounted a small amount of the paint will rub off. The more paint removed, the more mounting has occurred.

Best practice would be having different colours for different cow states, for example, a different colour once a cow is served and another colour if they aren’t seen cycling three weeks later (assumed in calf).

The downside to tail paint is it can be less effective in wet conditions as the paint can fade and become unreliable as paint is removed. The need to regularly reapply the paint may not suit some farming systems.

It is most suitable to dairy where animals are regularly handled and can be seen regularly for changes in the tail paint.

Scratch tape

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Similar in function to tail paint, scratch tape has a similar consistency as a lotto scratch card.

It has a brightly coloured base layer that is revealed as the top is removed during mounts.

A glue is either applied with a brush or aerosol and the scratch card is fitted to this.

While they tend to stand up to more than tail paint, there is a little bit of skill involved in correct positioning and fitting to the glue pad.

Time can work against you here as the glue will weaken over time as cattle tend to moult their extra fur in the late spring, bringing the adhesive with them.

Advantages: One benefit the scratch pad has over the tail paint is that it won’t remove the silver top layer over time, but tailpaint fades.

This may be more suitable to groups that would be handled less regularly, such as replacement heifers.


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A slightly more advanced mount detector based in the US, Kamars are ink filled capsules that rupture under a few seconds of pressure.

Once the ink is released the Kamar will change colour from white to red.

These are typically more accurate for standing mounts as the capsule needs a few seconds to trigger which can rule out other activity around the tailhead like scratching etc. that can partially remove some of the previous options.

Advantages: longer up time on the animal, more accurate for standing heat, less judgement required, either there is ink released or there isn’t.

Downsides: It is more expensive than the previous options. Additionally, it needs to be fitted correctly for best results, and there is more hassle to rotate through cycles.

Sensor System

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Most modern milking equipment manufacturers offer secondary sensor systems.

Some examples of these are: MooMonitor by Dairymaster, Herdnavigator by DeLaval, Herdinsights by Alanya and QWES by Lely.Heattime by SCR Dairy.

There are others but they all revolve around the same core principals of movement recognition via worn sensors in either collar or bracelet form.

The advantages of these systems is they typically integrate into your parlour management and report to a central farm computer for ease of access as well as offering other benefits around overall animal health and performance.

The downside is they are very expensive and exclusively for dairy systems, with initial costs running over €10,000 and some additional maintenance costs per cow beyond that, only larger dedicated farms can see the returns needed to justify the investment.

Vasectomised Bull/Chin Ball

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Probably the most reliable option for most farmers looking at transitioning to AI breeding is nature’s own heat detector: A Bull, only rendered infertile by a Vet.

A vasectomised or ‘Teaser’ Bull is essentially the same as a stock bull, but cutting the tubes that carry semen means it isn’t possible for him to inseminate a cow as the semen never get as far the cow.

Generally, teasers are dairy bulls for the sake of lower maintenance cost and easier to manage animals.

For additional visibility a chin ball can be fitted to a teaser for adding paint to the cow as she is mounted.

A bull will mount a cow much more than other cows around heat and will spend significant amounts of time with a cow before and after actual standing heat.

Advantages: One good benefit to a teaser is that typically they are younger bulls and as such will grow over the season, even while working so you can recoup some of the costs by sending them to the factory after the breeding season ends.

Some farmers may keep a teaser over multiple seasons, while this is slightly more expensive (winter feeding) a bull you are familiar with can be an advantage.

If you’ve any questions on this top or suggestions for what you’d like to see discussed contact me: alan@moocall.com or via our Facebook page

All the best,

Alan Horan, Moocall Researcher


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