You might be using tail paint, also known as tail chalk, in your breeding program for several reasons.
“It’s what my neighbors do.”
Or maybe, “It’s what my A.I. company prefers.”
Sure, tail paint is better than doing nothing, but that doesn’t make it the best option. Tail chalk falls short in a few critical areas – areas that may seem small until you add up their financial impact.
Here are 3 reasons you shouldn’t settle for tail paint or chalk:
1. Tail paint is never applied the same way twice.
Two people could go out and apply tail paint, and you’d likely get two completely different results. One person could apply a short strip, the other long. One person could do a very thick strip, while the other does skinny. Cow to cow and person to person, every chalk strip will look different.
That becomes a big problem when the person reading the tail paint must make a breeding decision. Especially if they didn’t apply the chalk to start with. How much chalk was there initially? How much has been rubbed off? Should the cow be bred or not?
Some cows will be bred that shouldn’t be, causing you to overspend on semen. And, some cows that should be bred won’t be, causing missed pregnancy opportunity.
2. Tail paint isn’t calibrated.
Let’s say you put a strip of tail paint on a cow, and you come back to her a few days later. What do you know about estrus intensity? Just how strong was the cow’s estrus on a scale of one to 10? Since chalked hair can stick up after a single mount, was the cow mounted once or 10 times? And, what breeding decision will you make based on what you see?
Tail paint doesn’t provide a “measuring stick” in terms of estrus activity, which is essential to know since the higher the estrus activity is, the higher your chances are for a successful pregnancy.
Without a measure for estrus activity, it’s like blindly throwing a darts at a dartboard. Yes, some darts will hit the board and cows will get pregnant, but many won’t. Now imagine taking that blindfold off and using a tool that measures estrus activity. Your chances of pregnancy success go up, don’t they?
3. There are proven tools on the market to increase pregnancy rates.
Use of simple technology, like an ESTROTECT Breeding Indicator, helps overcome some of the key downfalls of tail paint. A breeding indicator is a self-adhesive sticker that you apply halfway between the hip and tailhead of a cow's back. As mounting activity occurs, the indicator’s silver and black surface ink is rubbed off by the friction of the mounting and will reveal the indicator color (red/orange, green, blue, yellow or fuchsia).
There’s no inconsistency. The sticker is always the same size and shape, so there’s no guessing what was there to start with. There’s no variation by cow or person applying.
And ESTROTECT Breeding Indicators have a Breeding Bullseye, which is a way to quantify estrus intensity. When the Breeding Bullseye (or equivalent area) is rubbed off, it indicates the animal is ready to breed and has the highest chance for a successful pregnancy.
In fact, university research shows that when the Breeding Bullseye is activated cows are up to three times more likely to result in confirmed pregnancies. In an independent trial, one dairy saw 20% more cows pregnant using ESTROTECT Breeding Indicators in contrast to tail paint.
For cows that don’t have the Breeding Bullseye rubbed off, you might put in a less expensive straw of semen or choose not to breed them at all. The data gives you the power to make a quick, cow-side decision.
Make smarter, more effective breeding decisions
The bottom line? Tail paint is subjective in both application and interpretation.
You need a precision tool that allows anyone to make a yes or no decision quickly.
Visit estrotect.com to find out how ESTROTECT Breeding Indicators can boost your confirmed pregnancies.
 Pohler, K & Speckhart, Savannah & Araujo Franco, Gessica & Maia, T & Guirado Dantas, Felipe & Thompson, K & Rhinehart, J. (2018). PSVIII-23 Late-Breaking: Effect of reproductive tract size and position scores and estrus on reproductive performance in beef cows. Journal of Animal Science. 96. 358-358. 10.1093/jas/sky404.787.