Inseminating cows? There's an app for that

A P.E.I. farmer is using an iPhone app to help him care for his cows.

A P.E.I. farmer is using an iPhone app to help him care for his cows.

Derwin Clow had seven cameras installed in his barn in Freetown, east of Summerside, and he can keep an eye on his most valuable assets from pretty much anywhere.

An app on his iPhone allows him to tune into any of the cameras for a live look at his herd.

Clow said he has watched his cows from the movie theatre, from home when he's with his family or even in the middle of the night from bed.

"I don't mind coming to the barn in the middle of the night to help a cow in labour, but I want her to actually be in labour if I'm going to make that trip out," he said.

Cows can also get trapped or caught in equipment, meaning frequent checks are important. Farmers also want to know when the animals are going into heat.

"Maybe I'm out on the tractor, or gone to town. I can look at it and see if there's any cows showing heat and then I can use the same phone to call the artificial inseminator and have her bred," Clow said.

Steep learning curve

He paid about $3,000 for the system, with some help from a provincial Agriculture Department innovation program. He said it's money well spent for the peace of mind it brings him. 

Learning to use the technology was a challenge for the dairy farmer.

"It was quite an education for me. I had to ask a lot of questions, I was really green at it. But now that I've had it for a while, they'd have to pry it from my cold dead hands before I'd let it go," he laughed.

Clow is a seventh-generation dairy farmer. He said his ancestors, who did everything by hand and eye, would be amazed by his iPhone app.