Ray Nebel, extension dairy scientist at Virginia Tech, suggests using the following 10 components for a successful heat detection program.

1. Establish standard operating procedures. Be sure you and your employees know when and where to watch for heats, what signs to look for, as well as who should be notified about it.

2. Use records. Record every heat period and use breeding wheels, charts and calendars to ensure special attention is paid to cows scheduled to be in heat.

3. Allow for group interaction. Group unbred animals together whenever possible, as animals in heat tend to congregate around each other.

4. Minimize sore feet. Mounting activity is more frequent in cows that don’t have sore feet. Allow cows to spend a portion of their time off concrete.

5. More is better. Observe cows at least three times a day — four times is better — every six to eight hours. Remember, the average heat only lasts eight hours.

6. Watch efficiently. Cows are less likely to show heats during feeding or milking time. Avoid heat detection at these times, and make sure that cows are not disturbed by your presence.

7. Location. Make observations in areas where cows have good footing and few obstacles to hinder interaction.

8. Use aids wisely. While patches and other aids work well, they still take work to implement. Be sure to manage the
information these devices provide, and keep all eligible cows on the system.

9. Use hormone treatments. If you decide to use hormonal treatment, be sure that the program is implemented correctly. And, be sure to observe cows three weeks after animals are bred to catch those not pregnant from the procedure.

10. Don’t take shortcuts. Write down heats and watch cows closely to ensure that the cow is in heat.