Icow delivers doubled milk yields, report farmers

Farmers using a mobile phone application developed two years ago to advise them how to manage the breeding cycles and health of their livestock have delivered results showing a doubling in their milk production on using the app, from 1.5 litres to 3 litres, per lactating cow.

Icow is an application that helps farmers track the ovulation stages of cows helping them to manage breeding and the nutrition leading up to calving day. The app sends a series of voice prompts and sms messages to the farmer during the 365-day cow cycle. Developed by farmer Su Kahumbu, the app also alerts farmers on nutritional, illnesses and disease, vaccination, parasites and milk hygiene issues throughout the cycle, provides information on the nearest veterinary and artificial insemination services, and collects and stores milk and breeding records.

"Farmers sign up to a three SMS a week system, with their authority, once they have registered. We then send them information on good practices around feed, nutrition, animal health care, calf care, etc," said Kahumbu.

The iCow team keeps files of all the farmers who have subscribed to their services, tracking all stages of the pregnancy, and texting instructions on what to do at what time.

Normally, cows have a very short receptive period within their cycle, only 11 to 12 hours, and will come on heat every 17 to 25 days until impregnated.

Experts say the shorter period makes it tricky for the farmers to keep tabs on which exact dates a cow should be prepared for insemination.

Farmers, who traditionally found it hard to detect the gestation period using traditional methods like calendars, can now be alerted by phone to the key periods in the lie cycle.

Farmers first register with the application 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 a short message service delivering additional important information, for instance a veterinary’s phone number," said Su.

The company has also developed iCow Soko, which enables farmers sell and buy livestock over the iCow platform.

In 2010, during a first continental competition dubbed App4Africa, iCow won the top cash prize of $5,000 in a challenge that attracted some of the most innovative ideas from across Africa.

Apps4Africa highlights the talent of local developers to leverage the power of digital technology to make a better world.