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HEAT DETECTION: Big brother is keeping an eye on your cows!

Publication: Dairy Farmer Publication Date: 28-JAN-04 Format: Online - approximately 1355 words Article Excerpt Big Brother, minus the diary room, could soon be coming to a cubicle shed near you. Angela Rhodes reports on a new surveillance system which looks set to revolutionise heat detection in large herds.Heat detection rates are running at an all-time low in many dairy herds with only one in four cows that are on heat each cycle actually getting in calf. This decline looks set to continue as cow numbers per man increase and time for heat detection decreases. But help may be at hand in the form of a new surveillance system which provides round the clock monitoring and recording of oestrus activity and can deliver heat detection rates of 95-100% accuracy, putting it on a par with progesterone testing.The 4Sight system has been developed by Ulster-based agritech business Fionn Technologies and has already been trialled successfully by the Agricultural Research Institute Northern Ireland (ARINI) at Hillsborough. Although the technology is patented and the supporting software is copyright protected, Fionn's Business Development director Declan O'Hare is reluctant to give too much away about the finer details of the system.But in simple terms it operates like a security system using close circuit cameras and movement activated sensors - the clever part is what it then does with the images it collects. "The system is supplied as a modular kit which is designed to provide 100% coverage of the cow accommodation including the collecting yard and parlour," explains Mr O'Hare. "Surveillance cameras and optical electronic sensors are fixed around the building to provide 24-hour monitoring of the cows."The system has been designed to recognise specific `cow shaped' breaks in the sensor beams so it is not triggered by staff or machinery moving around. When the optical sensors detect mounting behaviour the cows are caught on camera and specialist software can then match the digitised picture to the herd database in the computer.

Each cow is photographed when she enters the herd and the database stores individual cow images. The system gets round the problem of having to sift through the images for the whole herd by drawing on stored fertility data to narrow down the search by discounting cows that are confirmed in-calf or dry."In very large herds it may be more practical to identify the cows by the numbers on their collars or possibly even using a barcode freezebrand on their flanks," says Mr O'Hare.Having recorded the oestrus activity and identified the cows, the central computer can either provide a date/time stamped photo, video footage or, in very large commercial herd situations, a simple printout listing the times for each cow on heat."By providing specific times of standing heats it is then possible to plan insemination times more accurately and, as a result increase the chances of the cow holding to service," comments Mr O'Hare.

"Our experiences with the time-stamped images have highlighted just how few times some cows actually show bulling activity and at what obscure times of the night that it can happen," remarks Mr O'Hare. "Quite often it is the high-yielding, more genetically valuable cow that you really want to get in-calf that will have these short heats, so this system greatly improves the chances of catching her."

An additional advantage of the system is that nothing has to be applied to the cow so it is less hassle for the herdsman and much less stressful for the cows. It also does away with the uncertainty that surrounds heat mount detectors that get missed or have been triggered by cows just messing around, and it has the advantage over pedometers of providing irrefutable visual evidence that the cow was standing, rather than just alerting the stockman to go and check for bulling activity.

Apart from providing definitive evidence of cows on heat, the system helps identify the genuine nonbullers that require veterinary attention much more quickly than would be expected with herdsman based heat detection."This means they can be back cycling more quickly and have more chances to be served particularly if they are in...
100% Heat Detection now a reality
Northern Ireland Based company have invented a high tech method of heat detection, excerpts from the Farmers Weekly Two lines of photosensitive cells, a beam running the length of the cattle shed and a visual camera detecting cows' every movements. It may sound like a sc-fi film, but in reality it is the answer to many dairy farmers' prayers in combating heat detection and fertility problems. For William and James Goodwin of Hill House Farm, Lindfield, fertility has been an ongoing issue in their 650-cow Holstein Friesian herd for some time. "With such a large herd we were missing heats, some cows were showing erratic heats and AI timing was consequently under pressure." Having used a series of heat detection tools in the past, the Goodwin's felt a more radical and innovative approach to tackling the problem was needed and one that could reap early rewards. Comprising overhead optic sensors in cow housing and the milking parlour that trigger a surveillance system, the 4sight system, installed nine months ago, has since improved heat detection from 50% accuracy to almost 99% and reduced calving interval from 450 days to about 380 days, says William. "It works by acting as an auto ID system recognising each individual cow, while feeding back information to a PC in the farm office showing which cows are displaying either primary or secondary signs of heat activity." The computer screen shows the exact start time of activity recorded against each cow number and the ideal time for serving at 14 -24 hours post-activity, something Mr Goodwin feels has been a big benefit to all farm staff. "We simply turn the screen on and check which cow needs serving. We then pick the right time to suit the farm staff according to the window of time set by the computer, helping save The system has also helped reduce the number of services required for each pregnancy, while increasing the number of pregnancies a day, he adds. Mr Goodwin says the beauty of the system is that once installed there is a significantly reduced need for labour, helping free up labour for other farm tasks, which perhaps were previously neglected because of heat detection duties. "All maintenance is carried out remotely by broadband connection from the manufacturer in Northern Ireland, so once installed we don't have to touch it." Northern Ireland firm Fionn Technologies, says that while it compares well with other heat detection tools, it is better suited for larger herds - 350 cows plus - which can be housed for the 150 days or so immediately post-calving for heat activity to be detected. And although costs would appear expensive, they must be considered on a farm-by-farm basis, as each installation is bespoke to that unit, says the company's spokesman. "However, in the average UK herd poor fertility costs about 170 a cow from lower milk yields, extra services and increased culling. "Once installed the 4sight system has been shown to deliver a payback of 12-15 months in a 400cow herd and on one farm is expected to lift yield by more than 1500 litres a cow a year." Consultant Dick Esselmont, who has been calculating cost benefits of the system in place at Lindfield, believes that herds like this often have heat detection rates of less than 50% and conception rates of 20% or so. To keep the failure to conceive (FTC) culling rate down, such farmers now give cows as many as 420 days after calving to get in calf. "The outcome in such herds is a calving interval

valuable labour and reduce AI costs." The system is also capable of remembering how each cow displays oestrus, says vet Rob Drysdale, who has been working through the installation with the Goodwins. "The 4sight system has allowed us to work with William and James to manage the herd's fertility in a more structured and accurate manner, picking out cows that may be anoestrous or unwell and treating them accordingly."

of 470 days or so and an FTC culling rate of 20%. By lifting heat detection rate to 90% and by increasing conception rate to 50% (through improved accuracy of insemination timing), the predicted effect is to lift yields by 1500 litres a cow a year. "Calving interval should drop to 380 days or so and FTC culling to 2%. In a 620-cow herd, these benefits are estimated to be worth 236,000 in total or 3.7p/litre," he reckons. In a large herd like this, Mr Esselmont predicts 4sight should reduce vet costs by 30 a cow a year and labour costs by 20 a cow. "In the Goodwin's herd this would be worth 30,000 a year alone, meaning the payback period for installing 4sight is calculated to be just 12 months."

Journal of Dairy Science Volume 77, Issue 9, September 1994, Pages 2745-2753 Article The Estrus Detection Problem: New Concepts, Technologies, and Possibilities P.L. Senger1, a The single most important problem limiting high reproductive efficiency in the national dairy herd is poor detection of estrus. Failure to detect estrus or erroneous diagnosis of estrus results in an estimated annual loss of over $300 million to the dairy industry in the US. New technologies for the solution of this problem must be more effective than visual observation and aids currently used to detect estrus. Ideally, technologies that provide the solution for detection problems should provide the following: continuous (24 h/d) surveillance of the cow, accurate and automatic identification of cows in estrus, operation for the productive lifetime of the cow, minimized labor requirements, and high accuracy in identifying the appropriate physiologic or behavioral events that correlate highly with ovulation. New approaches are aimed at providing automation of detection of estrus using electronic technology. Pedometry, implantable impedance sensors, and surface -applied and implantable pressure sensors are in various stages of development and use.

New Products August 10th 2007

BREEDING management package: Following the acquisition of an exclusive distribution contract for the Heatime fertility detector, Semex UK has launched a new breeding management package Semex AI-24.

The company is marketing the package as a total breeding management concept aimed at empowering producers to take better control of breeding activities in order to be more efficient and cost effective.

The package is made up of five elements: SemexHeatime, an electronic heat detection system active 24 hours a day; the SemexPromate, the computer mating system with a database of over 80,000 bulls; Semex DIY, an insemination training programme for farmers; Semex Stud, the company s portfolio of pedigree and non-pedigree semen; and Semex Technical, technical advice and support on all aspects of reproduction management, including bio-security.

Heatime, manufactured by Fabdec and now exclusive to Semex, will be an integral part of Semex AI24, enabling farmers to monitor cows all day long and immediately identify those ready for insemination and those who are not cycling and need attention. Dairy Cow Heat DetectionAuthor: Blair Murray - Dairy Genetic Improvement Specialist/OMAFRA Creation Date: June 2006 Last Reviewed: 4 June 2010 New University of Wisconsin research has concluded that your chances of success for detecting heat in high-producing cows is just over half the rate for average milking animals. If you routinely check for heat only once or twice per day, your success rate drops even more.

Wisconsin researchers report that high-producing cows are in estrus for a shorter period of time than lower producing herdmates. A regular, frequent heat detection routine could detect standing heats more successfully.

Heat detection is basic to reproductive success in artificially bred dairy herds, yet estrus detection rates have decreased in recent years. A study of southeastern U.S. Holstein herds, for example, showed heat detection rates dropped to 41.5 per cent in 1999 from 50.9 per cent in 1985.

Reduced heat detection success tends to be blamed on increased herd sizes and more cows per person, as well as higher milk production per cow.

Higher milk production is related to negative energy balance, which occurs when cows simply can't eat enough to replace body weight used to produce milk. Researchers have generally attributed

delayed first ovulation and smaller follicle size-factors contributing to reduced fertility rates-to negative energy balance.

Part of the negative relationship between fertility and high milk production may be genetic. However, the genetic component in cow fertility performance tends to be small.

This leads to the question of whether shorter estrus durations make heats more difficult to detect. Dr. Milo Wiltbank and associates in Wisconsin studied lactating dairy cows to measure duration. They used the HeatWatch system that fits cows with radio transmitters, and allows continuous monitoring and recording of mounting activity.

The study monitored 267 early-lactation cows housed in a free-stall barn and milked twice daily. The HeatWatch system let researchers record number of mounts and how often they occurred. They checked ovulation by ultrasonic exam for all detected estruses.

Researchers made comparisons according to lactation number, days since calving, and the amount of milk given 10 days before the day of estrus. That let them make sure the production level was linked closely to when the estrus occurred, not overall lactation milk.

When the cows were grouped according to high and low production, estrus duration [standing to be mounted] was shorter for the high-production group, the researchers found. This group, averaging 46.4 kilograms of milk per day, were in estrus 6.2 hours on average, compared with the lower production group at 10.9 hours.

There was a negative correlation between milk production and estrus duration. The high group had more intense mounting activity, with more mounts during the shorter time period. Still, the lower production group averaged 8.8 mounts versus 6.3 for the high-producing group.

Some interesting and challenging information about estrus events revealed by this study included:

15 per cent of recorded estruses consisted of only one standing event; estruses with recorded standing events-two or more-were detected on average 93 days after calving, with a range of 50 days when heat detection didn't start until 165 days;

average duration was 8.7 hours, with an average of 7.6 standing events; standing events lasted only 25 seconds per estrus on average. On the first ovulation 50 days after calving, the HeatWatch system detected no standing activity among 41 per cent of the cows, and only one standing event among 52.6 per cent. Cows that showed no standing activity had higher production.

Many theories have been put forward to explain why high-producing cows have poorer fertility. Wiltbank's study provides another one. He and his team measured circulating levels of reproductive hormones in the cows and found that high-producing animals tended to have lower levels of estradiol and progesterone. Estradiol affects how well a cow shows heat signs. Circulating progesterone levels tend to be low in high-producing cows as well, although their ovaries tend to have higher-than-average amounts of progesterone-producing luteal tissue.

Modelling done as part of this research showed high-producing cows metabolize more estradiol and progesterone through their livers. Since this removes reproductive hormones from circulation more quickly, they are less available to do their job. It could explain the reduced estrus activity.

Wiltbank used the data from this study to predict the probability of successfully detecting standing heat in a cow based on her milk production. With four-times-per-day heat detection, the probability of success is about 90 per cent for cows producing about 35 kilograms of milk per day. For cows producing 45 kg per day, the success rate drops to 50 per cent probability, and results are even poorer when heat detection is carried out just once or twice a day.

It is also interesting to note in this study that cows exhibited recordable standing behaviour at 93 to 95 days after calving on average. This suggests your breeding program may be more succes if you sful intensify heat detection and breeding between 95 and 120 days.

Recent CanWestDHI data indicate this practice doesn't harm overall profit. An important consideration in managing lactation and calving intervals is to maintain the dry interval at 40 to 70 days. A dry period longer than 70 days has been shown to reduce overall production.

Other considerations for successful heat detection include:

frequent, regularly timed observation of high producing cows. Bear in mind that cows may only show standing heat for four to six hours and actual standing events may last 25 seconds in total; choosing times when and places where cows tend to exhibit mounting behaviour; using records to advantage to help identify cows most likely to be in heat; using electronic heat mount detectors, tail chalking and die patches to identify mounting activity that otherwise goes unnoticed; using timed insemination to supplement a heat detection program or replace it entirely; reviewing when you begin breeding cows for the first time after calving and when you have the most success. Delaying breeding by a cycle combined with an efficient program to heat detect and breed cows may be more efficient. On many dairy farms, spring and early summer put heavy demands on your time, giving you less opportunity to spend on routine milking herd management. Re-examine your procedures and change them as needed to ensure the best odds of successful heat detection.

References Lopez, H., LD Satter and MC Wiltbank. 2004. Relationship between level of milk production and estrous behaviour of lactating dairy cows. Animal Reproduction Sci. 81:209-223.

Wiltbank, M., Lopez, H., Sartori, R. and A Gument. 2006. Positive and negative Effects of High Energy Consumption on Reproduction in Lactating Dairy Cows. Proceedings of Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference, Fort Wayne, Indiana. April 25-26, 2006.

Grexton, B. Lactation Length - is 305 days a myth? 2005 CanwestDHI Progress Report.

This article first appeared in the Ruminations column of The Milk Producer Magazine, June, 2006.

Last Reviewed: History: Written by:

June 2010 New J. Rodenburg - Dairy Cattle Systems Program Lead/OMAFRA; B. Murray - Dairy Genetic Improvement Specialist/OMAFRA

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Pedometry offers the opportunity for medium- to large-sized dairy herds to improve heat detection and, at the same time, reduce dependence upon labour. A pedometer is a motion-detecting and recording device, one of several precision dairy management tools that are providing opportunities to save labour, and improve individual cow care and management through the use of technology. Heat Detection Heat detection rate is a key factor in determining pregnancy rate and reproductive success in a dairy herd. This area has the most opportunity for improvement in dairy herds. Heat detection efficiency in dairy herds is less than 50%, and failure to accurately detect estrus costs the dairy industry millions of dollars each year. The decision to breed a dairy cow is dependent upon using one of three management systems:
y y y

systematic observational heat detection synchronization and timed artificial insemination (AI) use of pedometry or activity monitors

In high-producing cows, the period of mounting activity lasts an average of 5.8 hr, and some cows only stand to be mounted one to two times per heat cycle. Accurate heat detection requires observation of the herd by a trained individual three to four times per day, seven days per week. The biggest challenge to systematic heat detection is to be able to carry out observations consistently when required every day. Synchronization protocols and timed AI, on the other extreme, offer excellent control and timing of breeding, as well as the opportunity to schedule workload, and addresses some of the 20% of cows that are anestrus in early lactation. The downside is cost, the need to maintain strict protocols and the reliance on drug treatments.

Figure 1. Activity monitors may be neck- or leg - mounted. How Activity Monitors Work A pedometer is mounted by a strap around a cow's lower leg to detect and record motion such as walking. An activity monitor is attached with a strap to the cow's neck (Figure 1). The pedometrydata

in the monitors on each cow are accessed by a reader device, and the data are recorded in a dedicated computer. Software is used to create reports on the activity of each cow over previous time periods. Cows show increased activity prior to the onset of standing heat by a factor of two to four times normal. Cows should be considered for breeding within 12-24 hr of being identified with increased activity by the pedometer system. Pedometers and activity monitors provide the opportunity to identify cows coming into estrus while reducing the dependency upon labour. Studies have shown 80%-85% heat detection rates with pedometers when one animal is in heat and up to 90% when two or more are in heat.

Figure 2. Spikes in activity associated with heat cycles compared to days in milk. Text Equivalent of Figure 2 System Costs Initial investment in a pedometer or activity monitor system can be significant, at about $14,000 for a standalone system or an additional $30,000 if added to an existing parlor ID system. Prices will vary, depending upon features of the system, number of readers and number of monitors. The initial capital cost can be justified in improved heat detection and labour savings. With arm's length farm labour costs of $13-$16/hr, an observational heat detection program costs about $6,000 per year. At 6.5% interest over 7 years, a $30,000 investment in an activity monitor system would break even in labour replacement costs alone. Investing in a $14,000 standalone monitoring system would pay if labour on the farm is valued at $8/hr or higher. Typically, activity monitors attain better heat detection rates than strictly observational methods, which would be further justification over savings in labour costs. Figure 2 shows how the cows activity levels spike associated with heat cycles compared to her days in milk. When compared to a synchronization program, strictly on a cost-per-cow basis, the activity monitor program tends to be much cheaper and also has some economies of scale, which is not the case with synchronization protocols.

Other benefits of an activity monitor system include the tracking of activity over a number of days and its integration with other production information on each cow to assist in management decisions. Sudden decreases in activity may indicate the onset of lameness or other illness. Other patterns of activity, such as increases followed by decreases, may be related to metabolic disorders. Summary Pedometers or activity monitors provide an alternative for heat detection in freestall-housed dairy herds, especially as a replacement to labour in a traditional visual heat detection system with as good and frequently better heat detection rates. Pedometry systems tend to be integrated with milking parlour data systems, although some may be standalone as well. Pedometer systems have a higher capital cost, but they are a reasonable economic alternative to visual heat detection with its costly labour component, or a synchronizationbased program with less reliance on injections and high associated costs per cow. Pedometer/Activity monitor systems and related software provide valuable management information, along with other production data, for managing the dairy herd.