Cows line up to eat from trough
FINANCIAL EXPRESSION: If the cows' environment isn't conducive to expressing heats, it could affect the bottom line.

6 management tips to turn 'heats' up

Environment plays an important role in allowing cows to express heats.

Getting cows bred in a timely manner and pregnant at first service is affected by their ability to show a heat.

If the cows' environment isn't conducive to expressing heats with physical indicators like mounting, chin resting and sniffing, it could affect your herd's bottom line.

"Many influences play a role in a cow's reproductive cycle," says Stephanie Aves, business development manager for Nedap North America. "When dairy farmers have strategies in place to allow for cows to express heats, they can breed them at the optimum insemination time and better reach their reproduction goals."

To make sure you're not missing a cow in heat, evaluate these six management areas:

1. Housing. Too many cows in one place can decrease the amount of activity in a group. Ensure cows have adequate space to allow cow-to-cow interaction by using the following parameters:

• have at least one lying stall for each cow

• include at least 2 feet of bunk space per cow

2. Floor surface. Any slippery or very coarse surface makes cows nervous. Continuously keep your free-stall floors clean. Incorporate these floor characteristics on your dairy:

• have a dry walking surface

• provide comfortable footing with sufficient floor grip

• make sure it is a durable floor

Photo courtesy of Nedap Livestock Management

WHERE'S THE HEAT? Getting cows bred in a timely manner is affected by their ability to show a heat.

3. Feet and leg problems. Cows with sore feet or legs exhibit less mounting activity. When they're not in heat and have sore feet or legs, they may stand to be mounted by another cow because they don't want to move, ultimately showing a false heat. Additionally, sub-acute ruminal acidosis, or SARA, can cause lameness in cows. To help with mounting activity, consider the following tips:

• incorporate a hoof trimming routine

• breed for better feet and legs

• ensure your nutrition program is helping your cows prevent the development of SARA

4. Status of herd mates. The number of mounts per cow increases with the number of cows currently in heat. Therefore, the chance of more than one cow being in heat on any day becomes less for smaller herds or with an increase in pregnant cows in a group. Consider dividing your groups so higher producing, early lactation cows are together in a group. Not only does this offer more efficient heat detection and artificial insemination, but it also allows you to productively feed a diet for higher production.  

5. Keep cows cool. External temperatures above 85 degrees F can lead to less mounting because cows are uncomfortable in hot weather. Integrate proper heat abatement strategies for your farm to keep cows cool and active during warmer weather. This could include fans, water sprinklers and shade canopies.

6. Activity monitors. Watching for heats 24/7 is another challenge you face. With an activity monitoring system, you don't have to worry about missing a single heat, even when you're not around to see it.

To learn more about heat detection with activity monitoring systems, visit nedap.com/dairyfarming.

Source: Nedap Livestock Management

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