Using technology to ease summer breeding concerns

A beef producer’s breeding season is critical as it lays the groundwork for future success.

June 18, 2024

3 Min Read

Bruce Derksen

A beef producer’s breeding season is critical as it lays the groundwork for future success. Efficient and streamlined reproductive systems deliver long-term productivity while inaccurate processes lead to mediocrity.

Inputs grow in heat detection systems

Producers using artificial insemination programs must spend extensive time monitoring individual heat cycles. This allocation pulls workers from other crucial tasks, and while this investment may not significantly affect larger operations with dedicated heat-check personnel, for smaller ranches, workers are often spread thin between cattle and crop production.

In addition to increased time commitments, workers must be experienced and knowledgeable to detect signs of heat consistently. This is difficult as North American labor shortages are significant.

Vehicle and fuel outputs also add expenses during these busy seasons as trucks and ATVs make twice-daily trips to pastures, increasing fuel usage, maintenance requirements, and repair costs.

When estrus synchronization protocols are added to the equation, herd gathering followed by trips through breeding-equipped chutes or boxes becomes demanding. Handling activities including GnRH and prostaglandin injections plus CIDR insertions and removals add stress to animal immune systems while sapping energy from their human handlers. Expensive semen could be wasted or misused.

When organizational pieces fall into place, each reproductive approach is accurate and efficient, but corners get cut if an operation has limited time, workers, infrastructures, and vehicles.

Technology helps calm the waters

Technology companies like HerdDogg are attempting to smooth breeding processes. Their minimal intervention management platform monitors cattle from a distance, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, logging minute temperature and movement changes and providing early warnings of health status and estrus timelines.

Bluetooth-capable ear tags equipped with accelerometers and temperature sensors collect and store data for algorithms to correlate into heat detection and individual health status.

“In a cow-calf setting, machine learning algorithms are comparing readings of all mature animals and identifying changes in heat cycles and health,” says Andrew Uden, HerdDogg CEO. “This adds accuracy since we're not taking external outliers from one location and applying them to another.”

To simplify the identification process, ear tags feature bright green LED lights which can be turned on for visibility when within 150 feet of a reader or smartphone. These lights alert producers of females ready for insemination.

Additionally, as ear tag temperature sensors monitor daily diurnal patterns, they signal pattern breaks indicating potential health issues days before clinical signs appear. Like the heat detection process, sick animals are confirmed by turning on the ear tag lights of those indicated in alerts.

“Technologies like ours are significantly reducing time spent and labor required for heat checking, plus, less experienced workers can confidently pinpoint females in heat,” Uden says. “Then, there’s the added bonus of health status alerts even before clinical signs appear.”

He believes technology like HerdDogg’s benefits all reproductive and breeding processes, reducing time and labor inputs, fuel, and equipment demands while cutting drug and treatment costs and helping remove guesswork.

“I think it’s imperative we continue to equip our industry’s producers with the technological tools to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively,” Uden says.

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