The aim of the present study was to evaluate the merits of a coloured paste applied to cows as an aid to heat detection in a dairy herd. It was performed on 110 French Friesian cows under a loose housing system over one year. For comparison, the results of the previous year, with no paste application, were also computed. Results of heat detection by the herdsman and by paste removal were compared to expected ovulations assessed by regular rectal palpation and, or, plasma or milk progesterone patterns. The paste system improved the percentages of oestrus detection of post partum and post inseminated cyclic cows by 26 and 22 per cent respectively, compared to the previous year. Overall missed heat incidence was 15 per cent and over estimation was negligible (less than 5 per cent). The mean durability period of the paste in the absence of mounting was 13 days. This suggests that to achieve the above mentioned results, application of paste should be performed at least every two weeks when no previous heat has been recorded, or only once, two weeks after service to check for non-pregnancy.