Calving sensor set to shine at Young Scientist

A group of students from Ferbane, Co. Offaly are taking their invention – the alert-cow calving – to the BT Young Scientist exhibition on January 7-10.

Sean Flynn and Clive Keena, both second year students in Gallen Community School, Ferbane, Co. Offaly came up with the idea when their science teacher asked our class if they would be interested in entering a project in the BT Young Scientist Competition.

“We thought it would be a great idea and we wanted to come up with an agricultural-based idea as we are both farmers and have some knowledge on this subject. We looked at some of the problems farmers faced and asked our parents for any ideas. We came up with the idea of the calving sensor,” said Sean.

Clive said the project set about to design and produce a system that alerts farmers that their cow has started calving.

“During calving time the cows are usually brought inside a few days before calving, however it is very difficult to know when exactly the cow will calve. The farmer needs to be close by, if there are any complications during birth the cow might need assistance or a vet might need to be called.

“Farmers can set up a close circuit monitoring system so they can view the cow from their home but they must stay there to view it. Research has shown that in nine out of 10 cases of calving loss, the calf is still alive at the start of calving, and in eight out of 10 cases, the calf died within five minutes of calving. So it is very important for the farmer to be present if a problem occurs,” said Clive.

The two started the project by researching the signs that would show that the cow was just about to calf. From this research they included sensors that can detect temperature of the cow, movement of the tail and moisture sensors in our device, said Sean.

“The temperature sensors would detect a rise in temperature just before birth of the calf. The moisture sensor would detect the increase in sweat that the cow would produce. The movement (tilt) sensor would detect the increased movement in the tail just before the cow will calve,” Sean said.

On consultation with their teachers they decided to develop a device using the Arduino UNO board which can receive inputs from a number sensors and the board can be programmed to control the sensors and transmit readings to either a computer or a LED.

Once they have developed the prototype they hope to carry out further work to allow it to send a message to a mobile device when all of these sensors are activated.

“It has been a lot of hard work but we have really enjoyed doing this project and are looking forward to the BT Young Scientist Competition in January,” they both said.

The BT Young Scientist exhibition takes place in Dublin from January 7-10.

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