iCow

Agri mobile app developed by Su Kahumbu Stephanou of Green Dreams Ltd.

First Prize Winner of Apps4Africa Competition 2010

What you didn’t know about a COW

Cows like humans have a 9 month gestation period and a healthy cow will produce a calf a year plus milk for 10 months (305 days)of the year. In order to produce a healthy calf and optimal milk production, a cow must be given a 2 month ‘break’ from milking prior to calving. During this time she should be fed extra nutritious feed to enable her have a successful calving and subsequent good health for her milking period.

2-3 months after calving she is served again and the cycle resumes. Serving her before this period will result in possible abortion as she has not recovered from her last calving, and serving her much after this period will mean she gives birth at a later date whereby reducing her value economically.

The value of a cow thus is in her yearly milk yield and yearly production of a calf . Preferably a female calf that will grow into a strong healthy heifer for the same milk and calf production, or for sale.

Cows estrus cycle
Cows have a very short receptive period within their estrus cycle, only 11-12hrs, and will come on heat every 17-25 days until impregnated. It is therefore imperative that this window of opportunity is not missed when at the appropriate time.
In order to optimally manage livestock breeding, a farmer will try to avoid inbreeding and will either try to upgrade his stock using artificial insemination (AI) or ferry his cow to a chosen bull. In order to do this, he must be very aware of the estrus cycle of the cow by keeping good records on a variety of issues, birthing dates, bulling dates, insemination dates etc. Simply put a farmer needs to know when the 11-12 hr window occurs.

The current situation

Few farmers keep records. Some keep the AI ‘straw’ from the vet that indicates the bull ID. Most resort to using neighbourly bulls resulting in a high percentage of inbreeding thus poor quality livestock in the long run and deteriorating economics.
Using a bull can also result is reproductive diseases from the bull.

Most small scale farmers have 1-3 cattle and do not use AI for a variety of reasons. There is no service available in the area, they do not know about the reasons for using AI, they do not know how to identify the cow cycle thus miss the opportunity of using AI and finally AI may be too expensive.

Conventional Cow Calenders
Cow calenders have been used for many years to help farmers track the cycles of their cows. They normally consist of either a conventional calender showing important cow dates or a double wheel rotating cardboard tool. The problem with the conventional cow calenders are :

1. They are not readily available and normally only given out as incentive gifts with other cow inputs, medicines feed etc.
2. The cardboard wheel system is complicated and difficult to understand thus not used even when given as a gift.

Why iCow

1. All cow owners need to track the fertility cycle of their cows……..somehow, right?.
2. Most rural farmers have mobile phones or access to mobile phones ?

iCow is a tool that will help farmers track their cow cycles through their mobile phone. iCow is an agri mobile app.

How iCow works

iCow is a simple voice based mobile application that will help farmers track the estrus stages of their cows helping them to manage their breeding as well as cow nutrition leading up to the calving day. This will be done via a series of voice prompts and sms messages that will be sent to the farmer during the course of the 365 day cow cycle.

Farmers first register on the app and input relevant confirmed/known ‘cow’ dates. These include the cow ID, last date served, or last date calved.

iCow will send voice prompts to the farmer at intervals throughout the year, relevant to each specific cow at that particular time of it’s cycle. These prompts will not only be reminders, but also educational . In some instances the prompts will be followed up with an sms delivering important information e.g vet phone number.

E.g 1
Farmer inputs cow last date served as Oct 1 st 2010

iCow will send a voice message exactly 3 months later to the farmer advising him to have a PD test (Pregnancy determination) and will even explain the method and meaning of such a test to the farmer.

E.g 2

Farmer inputs cow last date served as Oct 1st 2010

iCow will send a voice message to the farmer 20 days later reminding him to observe his cow for the following week looking for any signs of being on heat as this would suggest that the last serving did not result in pregnancy thus the farmer must arrange for insemination once again.

This information is vital if the farmer is to maximize on his dairy production.

What you need to know …….

About iCow

iCow is one of many mobile agri apps being developed by Green Dreams Ltd.
These agri apps are plugins for the larger app Mkulima Farmer Information Service & Helpline (Mkulima FISH) currently under development.

Once plugged into Mkulima FISH , iCow will also be able to send the farmer an sms with the phone number of the closest AI service in his/her area and closest veterinary officer.

23 thoughts on “iCow

  1. Congratulation Green Dreams for Integrating mobile telephony in production and information sharing to address this issue on dairy cows production. It is very true that many dairy farmers especially in the rural areas have a big challenge when it comes to breeding and end up loosing a lot in the long run as milk production is mainly determined by calving.
    This service is timely and needed as mobile phones are common with all farmers even in the furthest and remote areas of this country.
    Thumbs up Su.

  2. I am working as an advisor with a dutch NGO-SNV helping dairy farmers in Cameroon with value chain assistance. iCow applications have a great potential out here as the traditional herder community Fulanis have large herds but little productive knowledge and/or practices. In addition, I am already working with a client on developing Bee-farms akin to your organic farms. Here again we can collaborate, if you wish. You can reach me on rkjani@gmail.com. Waiting for your reply.
    Regards, Raj Jani (+23796005688)

  3. Excellent & remarkable post! I have been visiting various blogs for my Term Papers Writing assignment research. I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with valuable information……. Regards

  4. Sounds like a ground bracking mobile app. My question however is the sustainability to the service. How are you going to get rands and cents to ensure the service is always available. I have noticed that you got a grant to set-up a call centre, which also sounds like a cost.

  5. Normally I don’t read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice post.

  6. I was very excited to meet i cow staff at Eldoret agri-fair wher i learned a lot about dairy cow God bless you mightly

  7. Good point. Sustainability is key! We have various revenue streams built into iCow which over time should enable the platform to be sustainable. The information is not free to begin with, farmers pay for each SMS or service they use. We also work with agri partners who are helping us to finance the platform.

  8. Your website is very informative. It will be useful for all of us. You have done a good work. I will come here again to check new updates. Thanks for posting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *