A new calving tool monitors expectant mothers while freeing up ranchers to do other things.
The Moocall calving alert sensor straps to a cow’s tail and can accurately predict when the cow is in labour.
The device sends a text message to the rancher’s phone, forewarning that the calf is on its way.
The birthing sensor is the brainchild of a farmer from Dublin, Ireland, and has been available in Canada for two years.
Eric Fazakas of E.F. Ag Services said interest in the technology has been steady since he started distributing Moocall in Western Canada.
He said the sensor gives peace of mind for dairy, purebred and possibly commercial producers who live away from their calving locations.
“It’s a way to manage your calving and take some of the stress out of the calving season,” said Fazakas.
Software inside the device uses gesture recognition technology to gauge the pregnant cow’s movements. It measures contractions and sends a text message notification about one hour before the cow calves.
“It’s to the point we just go to sleep at night and they’re in the barn and when it texts we know there’s something starting,” said Vern Luther.
Luther and his father, Dave, live several kilometres from the corral and calving barn of their Sim-mental purebred operation near Craik, Sask. January is their busiest calving month with their 45 head of breeding females.
When using the device, “we’re not tired. And we’re not driving down there three times throughout the night to check cows,” said Luther.
This is their second calving season using the devices and they’ve developed confidence in their reliability.
“With technology there could be a glitch, but I have not yet seen the glitch in this one. It hasn’t let us down at all,” he said.
Before using the Moocall and without cameras, Luther said he routinely had to get out of bed several times a night, drive to the barn and check on the heifers, which have a tendency to calve early.
“How much did that cost and you’re all played out? By the time you’re done chores in the day you need a nap,” he said.
Luther said he now has more time to drive his three children to dance lessons, skating and volleyball events during the day.
“Those sensors are going to send me a text wherever I’m at,” he said.
He said Moocall is better than a photographic system because cows tend to find angles and dark areas the camera cannot see.
The five by 13 centimetre sensor is attached to the cow two or three days before the due date. The device is placed high on the tail opposite the vulva and tightened with a strap.
The sensor can also detect difficult births by monitoring activity every hour. Once it detects contractions, an incoming text will say “high cow activity last hour.” If the cow continues the contractions, it will send a second text, “high cow activity last two hours.”
“So then you better get out there pretty quick,” said Fazakas.
“It’s fairly cost effective and if it can save you one calf it will more than pay for itself.”
Moocall’s unit price is $425, which includes the first year of service through the Rogers network. Afterward the service contracts renewal price is US$136 per year.
It comes with 12 months of network connection, unlimited text alerts and software updates.
The self-contained units can work over any GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network, both indoors and outdoors in all weather and in areas with weak coverage.
It also has a 30-day rechargeable cell, with battery level displayed during the text.
“How the signal is moved from the cow is there’s a SIM card in there and we set up a data plan for you through the GSM network, which is supported by Rogers here in Canada,” said Fazakas.
However, he said there are limitations in some areas depending on cell service at the farm.
A free mobile app monitors percentage of battery life and the number of text notifications.
Optimal number of units depends on the calving system and size of herd.
- Calving over four to six weeks: one unit per 30 head.
- Calving all year round: one unit per 80 head.
Fazakas said new developments using sensor technology include cattle heat detection and use for horse foaling.
More information is at moocall.com/register.