Frequently Asked Questions/references

How does the system work?
A small, digital radio transmitter is placed in a piece of polyester material (we call it a “patch”) and glued onto the tailhead of each cow you want to catch in heat. When she enters heat, herd mates will start to mount her. Every time there’s a mount, data is sent from that particular transmitter to a small radio receiver called a ”base station” placed in the proximity of the heat detection area. The information is then sent wirelessly from the base station to your computer by way of a network adapter. Data that is generated on every mount includes the cow mounted, date and time of the mount, and duration (in seconds) of each mount. The software is looking for mounting criteria known to be indicative of true estrus. Information can then be relayed back each cow’s transmitter.

How far will a transmitter transmit?
The technical specification is 1/3 of a mile. In many circumstances, transmission distance can be substantially increased by putting the base station higher. In certain circumstances, the distance may be reduced depending on certain obstacles (hills, trees in full leaf) being present. HeatWatch repeaters can be used to maximize required distance. Repeaters can send signals over 4 miles.

Are hills going to be a problem?
Maybe. At some point during the day, we need line of sight from the cows to the base station. The transmitter will actually store a limited number of mounts for transmission at a later time. However if cattle are not in the proximity off the base station for extended periods of time, a repeater will most likely be necessary.

How long will the patches stay on?
Patch longevity is a function of a number of things, including, but not limited to, number of mounts, heat and humidity, age of the glue, shape of the tailhead, amount and condition of the hair, time of the year, breed of cow, efficiency of the applicator, and maintenance schedule. In general, under normal circumstances, you can expect about 30 days on a dairy cow and about 50 mounts on a beef cow before serious maintenance is needed.

How much does it cost?
Please refer to the enclose Order Form section.

How quickly will a system pay for itself?
Rarely does it take longer than 2 years for a system to pay for itself. If you’re in the dairy business and have a heat detection rate typical of the national average, your accuracy rate is about 40-50 percent. Because HeatWatch II not only detects all standing mounts, but calculates the best time to breed your cows, your heat detection and conception rates will raise substantially. On a dairy, the reduction in days open will be dramatic and the system would be paid for in about one year. If you want a more accurate analysis on your payback period, CowChips can provide you with an in-depth cost benefit analysis. If you have a beef operation, estimate a minimum of about 15-20 percent more AI calves on the ground. Calculate the average price of an AI calf over a bull bred calf and determine the payback time.

Will the signals go through buildings?
Transmitter signals can pass through certain materials such as cinder block, brick, wood, and drywall, but will not pass through metal walls. However, radio signals can be reflected by metal and caught by the base station. If there are a lot of metal structures in the heat detection area, an RF site survey should be conducted by a qualified HeatWatch II technician prior to installation.

What frequency does it operate on?
HeatWatch II transmitters broadcast on a series of frequencies in the 900MgHz range.

Will this frequency interfere with anything on my farm or will anything interfere with it?
It’s unlikely that anything will interfere with HeatWatch II data transmissions given the technology we’ve built into the system to avoid this problem. However, it is not impossible. The most likely interference will be from a cellular tower, radio tower, or high tension power lines in the proximity of your farm.

How do I know when a transmitter isn’t working?
There is a fail safe system built into the transmitters to let you constantly know their status. Each transmitter activates itself and checks in with the computer every hour. If a transmitter fails to check in, the software will inform you which one is not working.

Will it work on my computer?
A standard PC with a Pentium on upr, Windows 95 thru Vista, 10MB on the hard drive, and an available USB port are required to run the software. A CowChips technical service representative will work with you to make sure your computer is fully compatible with the HeatWatch II system.

My breeding pasture is quite away from my house. How can I get the information?
Several ways. A hard wired, short haul modem can be used to directly connect your system in the pasture to your computer at the house. The maximum distance in this case is about 1 mile. Or, a portable HeatWatch II system can be put in that pasture and can be powered by either 110 or a 12-volt car battery. In that case you can get the data by taking a laptop to the pasture and downloading it..

For distances up to five or six miles, HeatWatch repeaters can be used as long as there is line of sight between the base station and the repeater. For greater distances, telephone modems can be used if there are phone lines available in the heat detection area. CowChips is working on incorporating cellular modem technology into the portable unit so that as long as cellular service is available in a given area, HeatWatch II data can be downloaded by way of a cellular link.

How long do transmitters last?
HeatWatch transmitters are powered by a 3-volt, single cell lithium battery that can be easily changed.. Most dairies get 2 years of use. Most single season beef breeders get 3 years.

How do I find a transmitter if it falls off a cow?
Obviously this can be difficult. HeatWatch II transmitter has an LED that can be instructed to blink off and on. They’re relatively easy to find after dark.

Do I need a gomer bull in my herd?
A couple of studies have been done over the past couple of years comparing the effect of a gomer in a group of females Vs just females. The results show that mounting activity and estrus expression may start a little sooner with the bull than without, but there is no significant benefit with the bull in terms of identifying estrus and onsets.

When is the best time to AI a cow?
According to the classic time to insemination study recently completed by Dr. Ray Nebel at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the best time to breed a dairy cow is 4-14 hours after the onset of heat. We have a copy of the study that we can send to you. Research projects being done on beef herds are showing that the window may be a little further out for beef cows (8-18 hours).

Will this technology be obsolete in a couple of years?
The technology will not be obsolete as much as it may be dated in comparison to newer technology within a few years. CowChips holds very strong patent positions on this technology, so if improvements are to be made, we will be the one making them. Anytime in the past we have introduced improved technology, we have always offered, and will continue to offer, a very generous trade-up program.

How much will this improve my conception rates? Is that guaranteed?
Keep in mind that there are four basics parts to improving AI conception rates: using quality semen that has been stored and handled correctly; having an inseminator that understands what he’s doing; having a healthy, nutritionally sound herd; and having a good heat detection program. In general, most breeders feel that the first three aspects are usually manageable and the real challenge will be in accurately and efficiently detecting heat. All this being said, if you know current average conception rate, we can predict what your improvement in those rates are likely to be.

If it doesn’t perform like you say it will, will you buy it back?
If we cannot get the system to work, you are certainly under no obligation to keep it. It’s important that you have a comfort level with HeatWatch II prior to buying it. We will be happy to refer you to breeders in your area that have used it so they can share their experiences with you. We will also refer you to several researchers so they can relate their results with you. In addition, we have in-house resources to assist you in getting maximum results from your system. If you are using HeatWatch correctly and not seeing reproductive improvements when there should be, these resources will help you to isolate the specific problems (in addition to heat detection) that need to be addressed.

Will I get a higher conception rate if I don’t synchronize my cows and just breed on natural heats?
Many breeders (especially beef breeders) feel that they get a better conception rate off of natural heats as opposed to induced heats. However, there’s no research-based evidence that we’re aware of that states this as being true. You may want to check with your vet on this issue. Or we would be happy to refer you to several HeatWatch users that have opinions on both sides.

What synchronization protocol do you recommend?
There are numerous treatment options that can be used to synchronize estrus in cows or heifers. The treatment of choice depends on several factors, including cost, facilities, cyclicity of the cattle, breeding plan and professional preferences. Your expectations plus input from your vet, AI rep and Extensions Agents should be used to choose the synchronization program that is most appropriate for your situation. If you would like an overview of synchronization products and their use we have one available.

How long will a battery powering a repeater last?
It depends on the battery and the amount of data the repeater transmits. If you are using a good quality, fully charged, deep cycle marine battery, you can expect at least 45 days. The software will inform you when the repeater is not working. However, it’s best that you have a small, digital multimeter (about $20 at Radio Shack) at your disposal to test the battery each week so you will know in advance when the charge is getting low.

Does weather or temperature affect the glue?
Weather and temperature can affect the performance of the pre-glued HeatWatch II patch. Cold temperatures prevent the glue from adhering correctly. To solve this, make sure that you keep the patches warm prior to using it. If you are putting a lot of patches on during cold weather, keep the patches in a calf warmer or other warm place. The glue will work well in cold weather as long as it is applied warm. For hot weather tips, talk to your CowChips’ representative. .In general you should experience very few weather or temperature related problems.