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Cattlemen get phone calls from their cows

By Staff | May 4, 2015

-Contributed photo THE MOOCALL device as its attached to a cow’s tail. Its sensors detect excessive tail twitching and alerts the producer that calving is about to commence.

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DUBLIN, Ireland – Getting phone calls from your cows? For some beef producers in the United Kingdom, such a call is more welcome than it is strange.

These producers are relying on MOOcall, a battery-operated sensor device which activates a text message to signal a farmer that a cow in the feedlot or pasture has begun calving.

Emmet Savage, chief executive of the Dublin, Ireland-based company marketing the sensor, said his company has been extremely pleased by the growing market for the device.

Savage called MOOcall’s introduction, after a four-year development, “a huge success” as producers tell others about the sensor’s availability.

Emmet Savage

“When a producer hears his neighbor is using the device, he tells us there’s been a deluge of traffic up and down the road as a result of other producers wanting to know about it and how it works,” Savage said. “Purebred breeders have shown considerable interest in the sensor.”

The initial idea for MOOcall, Savage said, came from Niall Austin, an Irish family farmer who has lost both a cow and her newborn calf and was looking to curb future losses.

He suggested that calving time could be determined by the swishing of the cow’s tail as the calf was about to arrive.

“We spent four years correlating our research on some 1,000 cows, and the subsequent development of the MOOcall now being used within both the beef and dairy industries largely here in the United Kingdom,” Savage said. “A small number of the units can be found on U.S. farms.”

Savage said the MOOcall sensor is attached to the cow’s tail when it appears the cow is approaching the calving period when tail activity increases. The device is connected with a SMS text message alert directly to a producer’s mobile phone.

The MOOcall has a toothed strap-and-ratchet for quick attachment to the cow’s tail, Savage said and includes an embedded smart M2M (machine-to-machine device) that works on a variety of phone networks.

Once receiving a “calving message” the producer has, on average, an hour’s before a calf’s arrival.

One device, Savage said, is adequate for an average farm of up to 50 head of cattle; if producers work it right, they can capture as many as six to seven calvings in one week with one device.

He said the device’s success rate at about 95 percent.

Calving losses, he said, have been limited to extreme conditions and would likely have been culled early from the herd.

Savage said the device is being studied for horses.

Iowa State University’s Marshall Ruble, an agriculture specialist at beef research farm, said the device’s concept sounds like a good idea.

He said he looks forward to learning more about the unit as it becomes more available within the U.S.

“Considering it involves the modern technology of today while relying on the simple movement of a cow’s tail, the concept certainly has potential and is an awesome innovation,” Ruble said.

He added that as the owner of a small cow herd at his own farm outside of Ames it may well be something for consideration, once he gains the added information on the unit.

He said the benefit would be in eliminating time spent observing cows as they near calving.

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