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To Get the Best out of Pedometers during Heat

Use of pedometers / activity-meters takes the lead among best recommendable methods for detecting heat for dairy farming practice, so getting the most out of pedometers in dealing with heat has a particular significance. However, certain things must be done to secure the functioning of this technology at the performance level of desire.

09 April 2019   |    Pedometer, Dairy Operations, Heat in Cows

To Get the Best out of Pedometers during Heat

Dairy operations encounter their most typical problem at heat detection phase. Operators get confused with cows not inseminated for a long while, as to whether it is the cow or themselves who misses the oestrous cycle. The tremendous number of possibilities for answering this question both ways makes things even more complicated.

At this point, use of pedometers / activity meters may lay the effect of a “drug” theoretically to operation managements as an assisting technology. The said appliances will track the animal on whose necks they are worn for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, taking precise readings of motions at such levels and frequency that cannot be detected by naked eye and keep the farmer informed whenever a change occurs in the general state of the animal.

However, there are prerequisites that must be fulfilled before this technology can be put in use. When these prerequisites are not satisfied fully, severe drops in overall yield may be experienced associated with the use of technology. In other words, in presence of any of the following adversities, this technology may not be able to detect heating in cows that takes place concurrently, or, alternatively may output false signals of heat.

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Technological Challenges

It is possible to group technological challenges in four headings, as follows:

Tied Status of Animals

The pedometer measures the activities of a cow continuously, to detect heat. Whenever a rise is detected in activity, it performs an elaborate analysis to inform the user “depending on the probability of heat”. However, in cases where the cow is tied, the degree and extent of rise in activities of the cow during the estrous cycle is drastically restrained, let alone its daily movement routines, which fact diminishes the possibility of detecting heat in that cow dramatically compared to other cows given liberty of movement. In such case, one may confidently argue that the efficiency of detecting heat in cows drops roughly by 30%.

Synchronisation Application

Hormonal manipulations in animals change their activities. In this case, activity of animals which truly have not reached heat may increase excessively. In synchronized animals, it is necessary to get support from experts about pedometer usage.

Overcrowded/Compact Barns

In order for estrous cows to perform any activity, they need to have sufficient space. In some operations, there is no space left for cows to move, once after bedding is performed. In such cases, losses shall be encountered in performance of pedometers at increasing rates depending on the scarcity of space.

Slippery Concrete Floor

One of the key indicative activities of time of heat in cows is the mounting behaviour. A cow reaching heat allows mounting behaviour of others and remains in a receptive position for a certain while. On smooth concrete floors, where the matting is not sufficiently spread, mounting of one cow on another may result in skidding of feet. And an animal with feet skidded once, will not attempt to mount on another, at a second time. As not much activity change will occur in this case, the performances of pedometers will adversely be affected.

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User Errors

It is obvious that use of the devices with full awareness on their effective and efficient operation is also essential. The Users generally tend to leave unnoticed the fact that the below listed conditions adversely affect the pedometers’ overall performance in their operations.

Proestrus Phase

The prheat cycle (defined by the rate of increase attained in activity among cows one day before achievement of the Heat state), can be pretty long and active. In such cases, the devices may issue heat alarms in, for example, proestrus samples that cause an increase in activity for 6 to 7 hours. The most traditional outcome of an alarm issued during the proestrus cycle is the issuance of heat alarm for the same animal once again on the next day. Considering that this might have been the case, the message given contains a reminder for the farmer to subject the animal to a preliminary examination.

Incorrect Nutrition

If nutrients rich in proteins are used persistently to feed dairy cattle, their movements are encumbered substantially. In this case, signs of heat fade out, as well. A significant drop will occur in the performance of the pedometers, at the same level and extent signs of heat fade out.

Permanent Group Exchange

Livestock are accommodated in groups physically distributed across multiple compartments at farm operations. Recurrent interchange of animals between groups is not an advisable practice for many reasons. During group interchanges, animals may react suddenly and the average activity of the herd changes beyond expectations. And in such cases, temporal drops in performance shall be reported by pedometers in animals of the concerned group.

Late Inspection

If pedometer issues a heat warning with respect to an animal, it means that activity has been continuing for some time. This period of time generally falls within the range of 4 to 7 hours. Therefore, activity may start to fade away around the time of receipt of said warning. In the event a warning is received a preliminary observation must be done as soon as possible. If the time until such observation is prolonged, the activity shall have been faded almost totally, leading the farmer to conclude a visual examination negative, although, in fact, the animal has reached heat.

Tying Up the Animal Upon Visual Diagnosis

At operations, when workers detect or notice an estrous cycle all by themselves, they should be able to pull and tie the animals somewhere else. In that case, since there will be a sudden drop in activity of the cow, despite the pedometer still running in tracking mode, the system will not return an heat warning. At operations making use of pedometers, when workers detect or notice an estrous cycle, they should note down which animal was detected with heat and at what time of the day, and the veterinarian be informed, before any intervention is made to the animal.

Bull Usage

A male wandering around inside the herd affects activity females.In a herd using pedometers, the Bull should be fed in a separate place.Only after a warning is issued by the pedometers, may the bull be moved into the same place.

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