Brigitte Ravera

Most farms around the country will be either finished with, or seeing the light at the end of the calving tunnel by now.

Unfortunately, as you know there’s no such thing as an idle farmer. No sooner has calving finished than the next big event on the farming calendar is just around the corner – mating.

Heat detection is one of the factors affecting mating which the whole team can help with. With plenty of new faces on dairy farms every year it’s worthwhile sharing the basics with everyone on the farm.

The farmers I see who have good heat detection results talk about how important it is for them to have the right tools, well-trained staff and good recording systems.

Reviewing your numbers is a good place to start to understand how you’re doing and whether you want to make changes. There are two key areas on the fertility focus report to look at – submission rates and heat detection. If you record pre-mating heats electronically these will be reported as a percentage too.

In farming there’s always new technology coming out and there are now several options out there to help you improve your heat detection rates. They all have their pros and cons, so take a look at what will best suit your farm systems, your budget and goals.

As with all technology, the tools are only as good as the people using them. A well-trained worker using tail paint and paddock checks can get good heat detection results and meet your in-calf targets, while the latest heat activity monitoring technology in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it properly is money down the drain.

So, if you’re looking at investing in new technology, check how easy it is to use and whether they offer any training videos or resources your staff can look at.

Cow behaviour can seem pretty mysterious to anyone who hasn’t been trained to read it.

You may be able to spot the signs of heat, but does everyone on your team know what to look for? It’s worthwhile sharing your knowledge at the next team meeting so everyone’s on the same page. You can also go over your drafting and recording processes at the same time.

Heat detection can be the difference between whether you have a good year or a bad year on the farm, as every detected heat gives you an average of 25kg MS in production. To help upskill your team and support you with boosting your reproduction rates, DairyNZ has resources online at

  • Brigitte Ravera is a DairyNZ consulting officer based in Waikato