A new, innovative heat detection product, FlashMate, is now available to UK beef farmers, and promises to improve timing of inseminations across the herd to see an increase in conception rates.

FlashMate, which is attached on to the back of the cow, works in the wet and requires no pre-warming, is a heat detection aid that flashes red when a cow is in heat. Developed in New Zealand, it is designed to identify many heats that are otherwise undetectable by conventional means and ignores false bulling. In healthy, well managed herds, lifting submission quality is the biggest factor in improving breeding outcomes.

The FlashMate device uses touch sensing technology and responds to direct contact from other cows. It measures spikes in bulling, head resting and nudging. Touch sensing is a transformational approach to capture heat behaviour because, for the first time, inert objects such as fences, trees, rain or hail will not affect the reading as they are invisible to the sensor. FlashMate only alerts when it has seen a spike of contacts occurring over a period of several hours. These spikes are highly diagnostic of heat. False bulling lacks the frequency of contacts of true heat and is ignored.

FlashMate contains a microchip, linked to an algorithm specially designed for beef animals at pasture, and identifies a clear pattern of heat. It then flashes for 26 hours, which is the viable window for insemination. After this time, the light will turn off. If the cow returns to heat, a new alert will be triggered.

“FlashMate measures the most reliable ‘Primary Signs’ of heat so does not rely on pedometry, temperature or any other less reliable ‘Secondary Signs’,” says Justin Rees, from KiwiKit, who specialise in products to improve efficiencies on livestock farms. “It provides ‘expert eyes’ that detect patterns 24/7 night and day and gives reliable information on activity correlated with true heat – it offers greater confidence in your heat detection rates.

“A common and costly mistake of conventional methods is inseminating pregnant cows because of false bulling. This carries a high risk of causing pregnancy losses and may explain higher than expected empty rates on some farms – using FlashMate the likelihood of inseminating pregnant cows because false bulling or bossing behaviour is reduced significantly.

“Reproductive success is about the net gain across the herd. In a healthy, well-managed herd, increasing the quality of submissions and therefore increasing conception rates, will make a valuable contribution to the financial performance of that business.”

FlashMate has won two Innovation Awards and is available from KiwiKit Ltd in the UK.