Cattle heat detection options
Failure to detect heat early in the breeding season or improper timing of insemination due to heat detection errors can result in an extended time between calving and additional costs for semen and labor.
Heat detection aids can save time and, in the long run, save money.
Common heat detection aids:
- Breeding and mounting indicators
- Tail markers
- Electronic mounting monitors
Why use estrus detectors?
Effective heat, or estrus, detection is economically important to beef and dairy producers who use artificial insemination.
Heat detecting can be difficult to manage and is time consuming. It's hardest during seasons of additional farm work such as planting or harvesting. Finding someone to give the time necessary to properly detect heat can be a challenge. Often, not enough time is spent doing this crucial step.
Heat detection aids can make it easier to identify cattle that have stood to be mounted, or are in a "standing heat." Heat detectors help catch those females that stand to be ridden and take some of the guesswork out of when the best time is to breed that animal. It can be difficult to be there all the time to monitor heats, but with the use of heat detection aids you can note which females stood to be mounted when you weren't there.
This video by South Dakota State University Extension, “Detection of Estrus,” has helpful tips and advice for successful heat detection.
Common heat detection aids
We've tested a sampling of the variety of detection aids on the market. The examples described below are the most common and reliable in the industry today. But there may be others available that work just as well.
Adhesive breeding or mounting indicators are friction-activated to identify animals in standing heat. Self-adhesive indicators are easy to apply, highly visible, very accurate and work effectively.
EstroTect™ is a popular brand of this type of tool. When using this brand:
- The breeding indicator's surface ink is rubbed off by the friction of mounting, showing that mounting activity has occurred.
- With each mount, the surface ink will gradually reveal an indicator color indicating a true standing heat.
- Once half the monitoring surface area of the patch is rubbed off, the breeding protocol should be initiated.
One disadvantage to the self-adhesive indicators that some people have reported the adhesive may not adhere through multiple mountings.
Another type of this product uses glue to adhere the indicator. The detectors are pressure sensitive and activated by standing heat behavior.
The built-in timing mechanism in the Kamar Heatmount™ Detector helps distinguish between true standing heat versus false mounting activity. Glued onto the tail head, pressure from the brisket of a mounting animal requires approximately three seconds to turn this detector from white to red.
Kamar Heatmount™ Detectors are a long-established brand of this type of device.
Tail marking products are specially formulated tail paints, markers and crayons used for heat detection or general marking.
They are available in brush-on, spray paint or stick options and come in a variety of colors.
These are usually more economical than the adhesive indicators, but require a higher level of interpretation of the markings by the user.
Electronic monitoring is a more sophisticated but more costly method to track estrus. It involves using a wireless transmitter attached above the tail of a cow to digitally send a data stream with the date, time and duration of every mounting event. Data is recorded on software provided by the vendor.
The AccuBreed™ brand features electronic components that capture every mounting event as it happens. All mounting data is collected, stored and instantly reported to the farmer through their software.
Reviewed in 2019