Farmer's hi-tech tactic that spots pregnant cows doing the walk of life

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The Independent Online

A frisky cow will give little away to all but an amourous bull, leaving farmers whose livelihoods depend on reading passions of his herd to play a guessing game. No longer for Richard Park, who has fitted pedometers to his 160 cows in a bid to prepare for breeding season.

"Cows are quite secretive. They don't like giving things away," said Mr Park, who farms near Kendal in Cumbria. The animals do, however, walk around a lot when they are ready to breed. By monitoring data collected from pedometers every time his cows come in to be milked, Mr Park can record a spike in activity when his beasts are ready to be inseminated.

Mr Park, 44, looks after 341 acres at Lower Sizergh Farm and uses his herd's milk to produce Kendal Crumbly and Kendal Creamy cheese, milk and ice cream. He has invested £12,000 in the monitoring system but says it is well worth it.

"We watch their behaviour all the time, but 70 per cent of the time when the cow displays her heat is during the night. I get up at 4am and don't want to spend half the night watching for it."

Mr Park said that, contrary to popular belief, there was no such thing as a lazy cow. He added: "The pedometers measure the distance the cows walk. When they are in season they walk a lot further.

"In summer, it depends which field they go to to graze. But in winter they have a daytime routine and cows are creatures of habit who love routine."

The pedometers are the size of a child's fist and are worn on a loose strap around one of the cow's front legs. "When they come in to be milked the information is downloaded on to the computer so I can check it several times a day," Mr Park said.

The data tells him to the hour when a cow is ready to be inseminated. The earlier a cow is in calf, the better for milk production.