Are Collars Right for You

Line Ferriman

Written by Line Ferriman

An experienced production animal
veterinarian, Line is also a data
analysts and heads up CowSmart

As I am writing this, the total number of cows wearing some sort of monitoring technology in New Zealand is probably somewhere between 600,000-800,000 and growing.  

In fact, the number of cow devices has doubled every year since first being introduced, so do not be surprised if this number has increased greatly again by this time next year. 

What should I consider? 

If you are thinking about introducing collars or ear tags into your farm system, you are not alone – and there is no shortage of companies willing to offer up their product! So, when and where should you invest in new technology on farm and what should you choose? Here are a few suggestions for what to consider as part of this process.   

ven diagram

Source: “Hitting the sweet spot for tech investment”, B. D. Rue, Inside Dairy, August/September 2022

Will cow collars fix my repro results?

The short answer is: they may, if heat detection is an issue on farm. It is important to understand what collars do and how they work: 

  • Collars measure cow activity and alert you when cows show heat-like behaviour.
  • Most link to your drafting gate and will automatically draft cows for AI.
  • Cows are monitored around the clock and no sign goes unnoticed.

Although very accurate, collars do not affect the drivers of reproduction, such as body condition score and nutrition. It is therefore very important to ensure that basic principles are still followed to ensure the best possible reproductive outcome for your cows. 

Repro results for Vetlife clients in 2021-2022

Table 1: Reproductive results before and after collar introduction for selected Vetlife clients 21-22 Season 

Will collars make heat detection easier?

Yes! For most brands, it removes the need for tail paint or ‘scratchies’ completely (however, make sure you ask this when investigating brands!). A small amount of time is required to assess heat alerts later in mating, but the overall time saved on the vet stand is very substantial. 

Will it work for my team?

Make sure that your staff are on board and willing to use the technology you are implementing. If English is a challenge to some, make sure to check if your new system has different language settings, both on desktops and apps.  

Is it worth it?

You will be presented with many Return-on-Investment calculations as part of your enquiries. Make sure that you consider the claims made in relation to your own situation and stress-test the numbers. Here are some things to take into consideration: 


  • Automated heat detection 
  • No tail paint 
  • Automated health monitoring 
  • Quicker response to illness 
  • Increased staff satisfaction 
  • Ability to check farm performance from a distance 
  • Ability to use data to improve staff, cow and farm performance. 
  • Time saved is often replaced by other tasks on farm.  
  • Not all diseases are detected by collars. 
  • Technology must be used to be beneficial. 


We are here to help

If you have embraced the brave new world of technology, Vetlife are committed to helping you make the most of your investment. CowSmart is a specialised service that is designed to support you where and when it is needed, at crucial times of the season, and to an extent that suits you and your business. For more information, contact your local Vetlife branch.