4 useful phone apps and technology for herd management

The latest herd management apps and associated technology can make a livestock farmer’s life considerably easier. Amongst other features, these digital marvels monitor cow health, reduce paperwork, provide accurate record-keeping, and even warn when a cow is about to calf. All this means more than just greater convenience; it ensures improved productivity and cow health.

4 useful phone apps and technology for herd management
The non-invasive sensor is attached to the tail.
Photo: Supplied by Moocall
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HerdWatch app

The HerdWatch phone app enables a user to manage the full breeding cycle and keep track of heat checks, inseminations and gestation scanning. According to the company, the 5 000 producers who make use of its technology have, on average, a 26-day shorter calving interval than other farmers.

The app can be used across multiple devices, and is currently being configured so that data can be sent to Breedplan. Among its many functions, the app can record cattle weights and calculate the average daily gain of an animal after multiple weighing.

It can also work out withdrawal periods from medication, record feed purchase dates, and provide reports on feeding. All reports can be printed. After initial download, the app does not require an Internet connection.

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Some of the tools are solely for overseas users (such as updates sent to Irish breeding federations), but with most data relevant to any farm, it is an app that could also work in South Africa.

Price: about R1 800/year.
For more information, visit herdwatch.ie.


Moocall calving sensor and app

This non-invasive, tail-mounted sensor (pic above) can accurately predict when a cow is most likely to give birth by measuring tail movement patterns triggered by labour contractions.

When the movements reach a certain level of intensity over a period, the sensor sends an SMS alert to a pre-programmed cellphone number. The alert is usually sent an hour before calving starts, helping to ensure safer calving.

The sensor works under all weather conditions, and even in areas where cellphone coverage is poor.

According to Moocall, one sensor per 30 cows is enough for producers who have breeding seasons that result in mass calving over four to six weeks. Producers whose cows calve all year round need one sensor for every 80 cows.

The sensor is mounted opposite the vulva on the tail, and Moocall advises producers to place it two to three days before calving is expected.

Price: about R4 700.

For more information, visit moocall.com.

Cow Call calving monitor

The Cow Call from Farmofy, a new Ireland-based technology company specialising in innovative technical solutions, alerts the farmer when calving begins.

The sensor is small, compact and temperature-sensitive, and is inserted into the cow’s vagina up to 14 days prior to the projected calving date. Insertion takes only 15 seconds, and the device is activated by the press of a button. It is connected to a base station installed at a key location on the farm.

Cow Call will alert up to five cellphones the moment when the calving process begins. When a cow’s membranes rupture, the device is pushed out. As soon as the sensor detects external light, it sends a message to the base station, where the data is analysed. The device will shut down 20 seconds after being expelled.

Detecting the rupturing of membranes allows the farmer to assess the situation and allow nature to take its course or intervene if necessary.

Inserts can be washed, sterilised and reused for up to two years.

The company claims that the Cow Call will increase productivity, reduce the rate of calving difficulties and mortality, and result in increased profitability.

For more information, visit cowcall.com.

MooMonitor+ wireless sensor

MooMonitor+ is a wireless sensor on a collar that allows a farmer to detect individual cows coming on heat and potential health problems. It monitors the animal daily, and the data gathered can be viewed on an app on a cellphone, tablet or PC.

The device uses movement generated by rumination and time spent resting as indicators of health. Rumination tells the farmer how the cow is feeling, while adequate resting times indicate good health. If a cow spends more time lying than normal or less time ruminating, an alert is transmitted.

The battery lasts up to 10 years, and the MooMonitor+ system is designed for both indoor and outdoor use. With a range of 1km (line-of-sight), it enables the majority of a farm’s herd to be monitored from a single point.

The system sends back data on each cow every 15 minutes. These short feedback intervals provide more information about the onset of a cow coming on heat, which allows for more timely insemination.

Costs: one base station, including mounting bracket: R53 000; collars: R1 344 each.

For more information, visit moomonitor.dairymaster.com.

At time of publishing prices are correct.

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Gerhard Uys grew up as a real city lad, but spends his free time hiking and visiting family farms. He learnt the journalism trade as a freelance writer and photographer in the lifestyle industry, but having decided that he will be a cattle farmer by the age of 45 he now indulges his passion for farming by writing about agriculture. He feels Farmer’s Weekly is a platform for both developed and emerging farmers to learn additional farming skills and therefore takes the job of relaying practical information seriously.