After a late spring when not a lot of grass was in the diet of dairy cows, body condition score is lower than normal and many cows are still displaying their winter coats.

This shaggy appearance is not a good look in the run up to the breeding season when cows need to be in top shape in order to go back in-calf.

Over the next few weeks dairy farms across the country will be starting the breeding season. Good heat detection is a key plank of any breeding season.

In total there are 10 signs of heat but within these, there are probably only three sure signs of heat, but a good stockperson will spot the other signals and use these to build up the case as to whether the cow is “on” or not.

  • 1) The most definite sign is when a cow is seen standing to be mounted by other cows.
  • 2) Tail paint is removed.
  • 3) Heat mount detector (kamar or scratch card is triggered).
  • 4) The cow attempts to mount other cows.
  • 5) Tail paint is rubbed but not removed.
  • 6) The cow is restless or bellowing or acting out of character such as running on the farm roadway.
  • 7) The cow has poor milk let-down.
  • 8) You see clear mucus around the vulva.
  • 9) You see mud marks on the flanks.
  • 10) The heat mount detector is lost.
  • It’s easy to identify the easy cases, what is more challenging is to identify the maybe cases where weak heats are shown.

    Given the condition cows are in, there may be more weak heats this year compared to other years. Regular monitoring of cows is important, as is correct use of heat detection aids such as tail paint, scratch cards or automated aids.