Dogs are now been trained to detect and respond to estrous cows. Dogs have been used to detect truffles, explosives, people, and even onset of conditions such epilepsy and diabetes to name a few. They have been a friend to farmers for centuries but now they are also being used to detect the hormones of cows.
As we know, dogs have a remarkable sense of smell, using a scent-detection system called their vomeronasal organ. This is how they read pheromones which to them, are loaded with information. Butt sniffing in the world of dogs it completely natural and is a very fast way to share information, a bit like a ‘getting to know you and status update’ in one. It is also a way for them to reacquaint after time apart. Humans have pheromones in their armpit and groin areas, but since our crotches are closer to the ground (and closer to Fido), this area appears to get more ‘nosey’ attention than our armpits.
So how are these doggy nose-receptors talents applied with cattle? Breeding bovines is a costly process and the percentage of cows conceiving in a season has a big effect on the profitability of a business. During a cow’s estrous cycle, the animal can become pregnant approx. every 21 days. Correctly identifying when a high-producing dairy cow is most fertile allows dairy farmers to pinpoint the segments of her cycle.
Sniffing about the back end of a cow can be risky business for dogs. For hygiene and safety reasons, such detection sessions have been attempted in the feed alley and dogs have been accurately detecting lab samples with an accuracy rate of 80%. Cows are a just little less nervous with a dog around the front end, and now after a number of studies, there is evidence that a dog trained in scent detection can identify an estrus-specific scent in the saliva of cows. We can’t wait to learn more of the diverse roles’ canines will play in the future.
Leah & Angela OMeara
Hound Dog Day Care (Specialists in Dog Minding & Dog Boarding, Pet Sitting Brisbane & Doggy Day Care Brisbane)