New Sensing Device Alerts Farmers When a Cow Goes Into Labor


According to cattle specialists, nearly 50 percent of all young calf mortalities—ranging from newborns to 24 hours old—are caused by a difficult birth. These deaths could be prevented if a farmer were there to help. But it’s hard to predict when, exactly, a cow will have her baby, especially in the middle of the night. To keep closer tabs on pregnant cows, Wisconsin State Farmer reports, a team of Irish cattle owners created the Moocall: a sensor that’s attached to a cow’s tail to monitor movement patterns spurred by labor contractions.

The Moocall is attached to the tail about a week before a cow is due. Once the cow’s tail movements reach a certain speed and force indicating it’s in labor, the sensor—which gathers over 600 pieces of data a second—sends the farmer a text or email alert. This message is sent typically an hour before the calf is born, giving the farmer plenty of time to arrive and monitor the labor process.

"A farmer may want to be notified about a particular animal he's concerned about,” Moocall sales specialist Paul Kenny explained during the product’s recent launch in New Zealand and Australia. "But the farmer needs sleep. So he can sleep soundly in the knowledge the sensor will go off and alert him when the calf is about to be born."

The Moocall hit commercial markets in 2015. It’s reportedly now available in 25 countries—including the U.S., where it’s been embraced by research dairy farms at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and the University of Kentucky.

So far, the technology has been a boon to agriculture scientists at UNH, doctoral research student Kayla Aragona told Wisconsin State Farmer. "With the Moocall, I no longer need to drive in to check on my cows, or depend on the farm staff to actually call me, so I can sleep better not worrying about missing a calving,” Aragona said. “Although I get a few false alarms here and there, I have yet to miss a calving.”

The Moocall isn’t without flaws: One cow didn’t like the sensor, and rubbed and banged her tail against objects so it would fall off, Aragona said. This led to false data and unreliable reports.

The Moocall retails for 329 ($360). There’s also an annual charge of 150 ($165) after the first year for data, software, updates, and support. Learn more about the sensor in the video above. 

[h/t Associated Press]

Banner image courtesy of iStock

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