Med. Weter. 74 (7), 434-440, 2018

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Automatic systems for heat detection in cows as a tool for improving herd management
There are at least several ways of detecting bovine heat, which vary in accuracy, as well as in the effort and cost associated with the implementation and operation of equipment designed for this purpose. Heat in cows can be most easily detected by thorough and systematic observation of animals in the herd. Other methods include the measurements of vaginal mucosal resistance, the fitting of balloons with paint at the base of the tail or on the back, temperature measurements in the vagina, rumen and milk, and determination of progesterone levels in milk and blood. Currently, controlled breeding programmes, including timed artificial insemination (TAI) and automated estrus detection (AED) or activity monitoring system (AMS), are routinely introduced in high-performance dairy herds. Most of the commercially available heat detection devices are based on accelerometers or pedometers. These devices are capable of detecting heat in 81.4% to 91.3% of cows. The sensitivity of heat detection was 58.9% for accelerometers (Heatime), 63.3% for pedometers (SAE Afikim, Kibbutz Afikim, Israel), 56.7% for KaMaR markers and 35.9% for heat detectors (Scratchcard). When two of the three systems were combined (different combinations), the sensitivity increased to 75.9%. Similarly, after adding visual detection, sensitivity increased to 96% and specificity to 90% (for visual observation combined with AMS). Activity monitoring systems are a proven tool for improving the management of cows. They are an alternative to reproductive management based solely on traditional methods of detecting ovulation or hormone programmes (TAI) and they respect the well-being of animals. It seems, however, that further improvement in cows’ fertility on industrial cattle farms will be achieved by combining several different methods of heat detection and synchronization, rather than by using a single modern heat detection system..
Key words: automatic heat detection, cows