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A mooving tail of cows, calves and the Internet of Things

Small firm claims calf birth safety boost with M2M monitor

By Gareth Corfield, 7 Mar 2017

Internet of Things devices mounted on cows’ tails are responsible for 150,000 safe births of calves, if the developer and Vodafone are to be believed.

Moocall, developers of a calving sensor which is linked to Vodafone’s M2M Internet of Things network, says that “more than 110,000 calves and around 50,000 cows die every year due to birth complications” which could be avoided if farmers were aware of them, and in a position to call a vet for help when needed.

We are told that around 150,000 calves were born quite literally underneath the monitoring of Moocall’s tail-mounted IoT sensor, which incorporates a SIM card.

The system works by telling the farmer how active each cow is at a given time. The sensor detects the direction in which the cow’s tail moves: ordinarily cows swish their tails back and forth to ward off flies, whereas when it is having pre-birth contractions the tail tends to move up and down and the movements correlate with the frequency of contractions.

A large increase in tail activity signifies either that the cow is about to produce a particularly firm cowpat or that it is calving.

John Larkin, technology and marketing manager, Moocall, said in a canned statement: “It also allows farmers to get some much needed rest, safe in the knowledge they will receive an alert at crucial calving moments rather than having to be on permanent watch.”

The obvious question regarding device durability occurred to The Register, given the Moocall sensor’s proximity to the cow’s arsehole, and the answer can be found by watching the helpful instructional videos (SFW) on their website. For anyone too worried to click, fear not – the sensor is water resistant and washable.

As far as the wider IoT goes, it is interesting to see Vodafone resolutely sticking with age-old (and proven) SIM-based tech in the UK rather than going with, say, NB-IoT. Though the latter connectivity technology is currently in a trial deployment with Vodafone in Spain, it seems the network operator is holding off on deploying it elsewhere for now. ®

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