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

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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.

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<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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