Principles of good oestrus detection

Oestrus in cows is observed the most successfully when a specific approach is followed that is customized to the farm.

In general five principles apply:  

  • Make a note of the observations - Documentation
  • Know the oestrus signals - Oestrus signals
  • Take the necessary time – Time required
  • Recognize the influences on an obvious oestrus - Factors
  • Question the success - Success control
  • Allow support  - Tools

Documentation - Note observations

Documentation creates an overview

A consistent and complete oestrus recording of each animal and each animal group is indispensable and also helps interpret small signs correctly.

Practical tip

Here are a few tips on how documentation of the observations can be implemented in practice:

The traditional oestrus calendar

Farmer Heiri has a traditional oestrus calendar hanging next to his shed door. He has attached the pen to it so he “always has it to hand”. As soon as he identifies oestrus signals he makes a note of them. Fertilizations are entered both on the shed chart and also in the oestrus calendar. He is now accustomed as soon as he enters the shed in the mornings to glance at his calendar. This means he always knows which cow he has to pay particular attention to today and over the next few days. 

The computer program

Farmer Jean-Luc runs a larger farm and uses a herd management program that is directly connected to the automated milking system. He develops action lists which also include oestrus, oestrus monitoring and inseminations. His veterinary surgeon can also login to his system. She comes every fourteen days for an integrated ITB herd review and uses the data processed from the program. Her diagnoses, fertility treatments and therapies are also saved there and trigger further actions.

The app

Young farmer Stefan uses his smartphone as an electronic oestrus calendar. He has downloaded the app Smartcow to record which cows are in oestrus. The app gives an advance alert that he has set up on which cow could perhaps be in oestrus tomorrow. Stefan can also view his fertilization data at all times in the app. As he always has his Smartphone with him he finds this form of oestrus detection very streamlined and practical. He always has the important data with him. 

Detecting oestrus signals

Anyone observing oestrus must know what he is actually waiting for. What are the actual oestrus signals and how must you interpret what?


  • Cow signals
  • Oestrus detection
  • Oestrus phases

Take necessary time - observe calmly

Observe the animals for a quarter of an hour three times, or even better four times a day. This is what the experts recommend – but not during milking or feeding times, because at those times the cows are often more concerned with other issues than manifesting signs of oestrus. Therefore, oestrus detection has the best chances of success when someone takes the time every day to observe the animals in pasture, in the yard and also when they are resting in the shed. 

Practical tip

Do you need tips on how you can implement the recommendations for the time required for oestrus observation in practise? Here are a few practical examples on how you can accommodate a good oestrus observation in terms of time:

Keep the yard in view:

“When I’m cooking or eating lunch I can also see which cow is in oestrus because we can see our yard directly from the kitchen window – so it’s very practical!” says Farmer Vreni.

The sprightly grandfather

A sprightly grandfather is the key to success on the farm of farmer Ruedi: “As long as grandfather likes to be in the shed taking care of the cleanliness and the cows, oestrus detection simply happens incidentally.”

The short walk

“I like to go for a walk with the children to our cow pasture. The advantage of this is that they can walk in the fresh air and at the same time I can look at the cows” says young farmer Angelika.

Watching at night

“I have a few honorary posts and in the evenings I am often at meetings. I have got into the habit of checking the cowshed when I come home. I often see a cow in oestrus which I would have missed during the day,” says farmer Guillaume.

A book in the shed

Farmer Gian takes evening oestrus observation one step further: “We have seasonal calving and during the fertilization season I always make sure I take time to observe the oestrus situation in my shed. I have placed an old sofa on the feeding table and spend the time reading a good book.”

All texts and pictures come from our partner site (french)- you will find more information an tips about fertility there.