Flashmate heat detector lights up AI program for South Gippsland dairy farmer
Craig and Deb Allott are third-generation dairy farmers who share farm with their daughter and son-in-law on the family property at Hazel Park in South Gippsland. During this autumn’s joining program, they used the Flashmate electronic heat detector from Gallagher for the first time and haven’t looked back.
First off - What is FlashMate™?
Flashmate is an electronic heat detection device that monitors riding activity in dairy cows to work out when an animal is in standing heat.
It looks for specific patterns of riding/mounting by other cows - such as frequency, amount and duration of activity – and flashes red to indicate when a cow is ready for AI.
If the cow doesn’t come back into heat within 25 days of being AI’d, the Flashmate will flash green to indicate a possible conception.
Previous heat detection experience
Craig has used traditional methods for detecting heats before but with mixed results.
“In the past we’ve used tail-paint and tried scratchies too, which have not been really successful.
The cows will find trees across the property that they can have a scratch against – and that’s given us false readings. Likewise tail-paint is ok but sometimes you can’t really tell if the cow is definitely ‘on’ and ready for AI.”
This has meant that someone with Craig’s skill and expertise has always had to be present during milking times – to be able to recognise the patterns of when a cow is in standing heat.
“A problem we had before was that cows brought in for milking might have been let go from the shed and put back out into the paddock before we’ve had the chance to properly ID which ones are in heat.
Even then, if someone with the right experience is there to keep an eye on things, an autumn joining period often means that you’re milking in near-darkness – so it’s very hard to accurately pick out the cows that are ready for AI sometimes”.
Why try Flashmate then?
The main reason Craig says they chose Flashmate was greater ease and efficiency in correctly identifying cows that are in heat.
“I did consider they’re a bit more expensive than other options out there but if you’re picking out more cows – and more accurately, more easily and faster too – then that helps to balance the cost out I think.”
Another reason lay in the application of the Flashmates. According to Craig, applying them was also pretty easy.
“We just did it during milking while the cows were on the platform. So I just went along and sprayed them with the glue while his wife, daughter and son-in-law were milking. And by the time I’d sprayed them I’d just go back to the start again and pop them on – it was pretty good to apply them and less mess than paint.”
What happened next?
Having applied Flashmates to 150 of his herd, two or three days passed before the first one was activated.
“As soon as the Flashmate was on though, it was very easy to see and that made it a bit exciting!
Within about a month, you could look across the farm at a certain paddock at night and there were green and red flashes flickering all over the place – it was like a light show – quite interesting to see.”
Easier and more accurate
That same light show enabled Craig and other dairy workers to see exactly which cows were responding to the AI program:
“The milkers can actually identify the cows without needing someone who’s got a lot of expertise in knowing the cycle patterns to watch out for.
The Flashmate allows anybody to tell what’s going on, so it’s saving us time and effort and cutting out the guesswork from other methods we’ve used in the past”.
Craig notes that Flashmate accurately identified one particularly quiet cow that had never shown any signs of mounting activity in the past seven years.
“We’d never seen her bulling, never picked up on a cycle before and actually selected her for AI for the first time ever because of Flashmate. In the past we’d normally have the bull pick her up later on, so that was a big bonus to see happen this time around.”
Overall, I’d say Flashmate has definitely made life a lot simpler. Picking up more cattle the way it’s allowed us to, more accurately and quicker – that’s why I’m looking forward to using it again this spring joining period too.”