The Secret Life of the American Cow

According to an article published in Discover, a new technology has emerged in the agricultural world, specifically the world of cows. Beyond the automatic milking machine, I wasn’t quite sure what could make a dairy farmer’s life much easier, but I was mistaken. Sexting cows have brought the lives of cow farmers to the twenty-first century.

For those of you unfamiliar with the ways of cow breeding, let me fill you in. According to Cattle Today (yes, I know, there is an entire magazine devoted to cows), it can be pretty difficult to tell if a cow is in heat. The signs are mud on the backside of the cow and hair on her derrière that is matted and rough to the touch. The problem is that these signs are more easily distinguishable after heat than during heat, which defeats the purpose of knowing in the first place. Unfortunately for cow farmers, it is becoming harder and harder to spot these signs, especially if there are 200 cows to be accounted for.

Another issue for farmers is how to get the bulls to mate with the cows. It is far easier to artificially inseminate cows, but that unfortunately does not come without a major cost. Bull semen is expensive, and to buy it only to have it go to waste due to reproductive miscalculation is not economically sustainable for the farming community. The idea behind this new brand of technology is to save money.

Here’s how it works: There are two sensors that are implanted in a cow’s body. One is a thermometer that goes in the cow’s genitals, and the other is a motion sensor around its neck. The idea is when a cow is in heat, its temperature rises (hence the thermometer) and it gets restless (hence the motion detector). When both of those factors match up, the system sends a text message to the farmer so that she or he knows that the cow is ready to mate.

Apparently, cows are not the only livestock to be hooked up with cool gadgets. There are now devices used on sheep that sense an adrenaline spike, (supposedly when the sheep are in fear), then send a text to the shepherd when they are in danger of being attacked. Cattle farmers, of course, did not want to be left behind.

What it all comes down to is laziness. Cattle farmers would prefer to get an electronic message alerting them of their cows’ needs than just go out and check themselves. How much lazier can we become? However, it does bring to light the idiom “work smarter, not harder.” As a firm believer in this phrase (can I get an Amen?), I congratulate the farmers for making it possible to spend more time watching Gossip Girl and less time checking on cows to see if they are ready to mate. Well done, my friends. All kidding aside, it is important for the cattle industry to be economically sustainable, and though this new system costs money, it saves money in the long run.

Another issue that this new invention brings to mind is the “electronification” of our society. How far will we go before it is enough? Our use of iPhones and smartphones has gotten to the point where we are dependent on the availability of Wi-Fi to live our everyday lives. Smartphones are practically glued to our hands, the ever-present connection to the world around us. We’ve got apps that act as flashlights, apps that automatically send texts when we’re driving, and even apps that tell you where the nearest bathroom is. So why not combine agricultural work with what is already becoming the age of satellites and make it easier to function with everything you need on one device? But what if that device disappears? •