An Ōtorohanga farm has done away with tail paint after becoming the first farm in New Zealand to pilot an automated heat detection system for cows.

The simple method uses an electronic circuit contained in an adhesive patch to replace tail paint and manual drafting in the shed.

The patch is activated once pressure is applied and cows are automatically sorted at the gate for mating.

The system can be used in any shed and farming system.


Robbie Van Der Poel operates a dairy farm with 400 cows in Ōtorohanga and is the first to test the technology.

"I like the simplicity of the patches, anyone can use this in a way that minimises labour — we now have one less labour unit in the cowshed," explained Robbie.

"You can do the whole herd in one milking ready to send out the next day, and it's a one-off cost."

Milking technology company DeLaval, which has launched HeatGate, powered by DeLaval and Estroscan, says the effectiveness of automated heat detection can result in improved submission and in-calf rates.

"We're focused on the technology that farmers need to lift their profitability and manage the health of their animals without increases in labour requirements," said Peter Wilson, solution manager, herd management from DeLaval.

"We've seen about 231 more days in milk on our test farm as a result of automating heat detection alone."

"In our first mating we had a 7 per cent increase in our three week in-calf rat,e so that basically means more cows in calf earlier, more days in milk, more money in my pocket," said Robbie.

DeLaval HeatGate can be installed and operated in any cow shed and any farming system, either using a hand-held operator, a standalone fixture on any gate without requiring a connection to a centralized data management system, or in conjunction with a DeLaval sortgate.


"Before HeatGate we were using a traditional tail paint system, how I was taught," said Robbie.

"Now the cows are automatically drafted out and they're there waiting for me to deal with after milking."