Ask the Vet

Sync Estrus for Better Conception Rates

A good program for estrus syncing can help producers make sure cows are bred earlier in the season. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Claire Vath)

Question: What is the most effective method of detecting heat in beef cows? I want to improve heat detection in our herd, so we will have better success with AI (artificial insemination).

Answer: Estrus synchronization has helped me with heat detection. It allows you to really focus on this aspect of herd management, and having multiple cows in heat during a short time intensifies signs of heat. An added bonus is that syncing can help you make sure cows are bred earlier in the season.

There are more heat-synchronization protocols than I could ever list. I would advise visiting with your veterinarian and finding a protocol that best fits your operation, and then getting comfortable using it.

Heat detection is something you need to focus on and take time to understand. Dedicate time to it, and don't try to do it while doing other chores. The best times to check for heat are early morning and late evening. Mounting activity is highest from late evening to early morning and lowest during the day.

Cows should be observed for signs of heat without moving or feeding them. The primary sign of heat is when a cow stands and allows herself to be mounted by other cows. Also, watch for secondary signs including nervousness, bawling, a pink swollen vulva, clear mucus discharge, sniffing the rear of other cows, roughened tailhead and other abnormal behavior.

Heat-detection aids can be useful. KAMAR Heatmount Detectors and Estrotect patches are applied between the hip and tailhead, and change color with repeated mounting. Tail paint can also be applied and observed for signs of rubbing.