With Niall Austin’s new invention, farmers will know by text when cows, outdoors or indoors, are about to give birth.
Moocall sensors were launched by Niall Austin at the Ploughing Championships.
The sensor Niall has helped to develop is clipped on to a cow’s tail, and measures the the soon-to-calve cow’s contractions via muscular movements in its tail, and sends the cow’s owner a text about one hour before a calf is born. Niall explained that he came up with the idea back in 2010, when he lost a heifer and her calf, worth over €2,000 between them.
“The heifer was calving outdoors,” he said. “Unfortunately the calf died, and the heifer was paralysed and ended up being put down. There was no system out there then that would work outdoors as well as indoors.”
He says he “nosed around for a while” for a solution. Getting the product to market has taken investment in the region of €1.2m, but Niall says the product is taking off in Ireland, and plans are in place for it to be sold across the EU in the next six months. Even older farmers who may not be very comfortable with technology weren’t scared off buying the system at the Ploughing Championships, Niall said. “Even though it’s new technology we’re using, and very sophisticated technology, we still made it very user-friendly,” he said, adding that new owners can be sent away with systems that already have their phone number programmed into it.
“Our units have an end-to-end SIM,” Niall added, “so they can work over all networks, and therefore never be out of coverage.”
More information is available at the www.moocallsensors.com website.
Moocall users can nominate two phone numbers to receive the alert text when the cow is one hour from birthing. The company says the sensors accurately detected over 200 births on Irish and UK farms this summer.
Niall Austin said, “Like humans, labour can be sudden, quick, late or unexpected at times making it difficult for the farmer to predict. Pedigree calves in particular are often big and require Caesarean sections meaning both vet and farmer need to be on hand to make sure nothing goes wrong.
“The sensors are easy to use, inexpensive and can be easily transferred between cows. One device is more than adequate to service a small herd of 40 top 50 cattle.”
A robust ratchet strap system fits the Moocall sensor comfortably to the cow’s tail. Each sensor is fitted with a 30-day rechargeable battery, and users have access to a telephone helpdesk, and an online dashboard to manage multiple devices.
The Moocall Sensor is priced at €299, and the first 1,000 units sold come with free 12-month text and service bundle worth €160.
With between 10,000 and 15,000 visits to the Moocall stand at the Ploughing, they reported sales in excess of €250,000.
With backing from the Dr Michael Smurfit Investment Trust, the Irish Farmers Journal, and Michael Stanley, the calving alert devices was developed by Niall Austin and technology partners Motech Engineering and Dolmen.
Chief investor and Moocall chairman Michael Stanley said, “Moocall has been three years in the making and in that time we have secured important financial investment from the Irish Farmers Journal, who only invest in products that will have a positive impact on farmers lives, and Dr Michael Smurfit through his family investment trust.”
Stanley, who has provided seed capital for other Irish companies such as Oneview Healthcare, Micksgarage.com and Endeco Technologies, said, “The Moocall Mobile Calving Sensor incorporates the latest 3D motion sensors, complex algorithms, and an embedded roaming M2M SIM meaning the devices can pick up any network signal, no matter how weak.”
“Over the next 12-18 months we plan to expand aggressively in both Irish and international markets and in order to do so we will be looking to employ between 10 and 20 sales and marketing professionals to help drive the business,” he said.