A Little Bit Western


Reality TV

Feb 17, 2015

I must confess, we’ve recently started watching a lot more television in our household. This television watching has coincided directly with the start of calving season and there is one very specific show that we all take great interest in. This show has no commercials. It always features something interesting to watch. It’s (mostly) family friendly and the content sparks a lot of questions from our small fry.

We installed calving cameras.

Sometimes known as cow-cams, these wireless security cameras mounted in our pen and barn transmit live video footage of our calving critters to our TV in the house.  We started talking about purchasing cameras last year, and after pricing a few systems out and finding the right deal, a cumbersome parcel was delivered to our post office just in time for our main cow herd to start experiencing the first pains of labour.

I know excessive television watching isn’t meant to be good for us, but I’m pretty sure excessive cow-checking isn’t so healthy either. Cows don’t like to be interrupted by well-meaning pen-checkers as they’re getting down to business birthing babies. Somewhat like humans, I suspect they don’t want a lot of onlookers.  Most humans, of course, wouldn’t welcome a live-feed video of their birth, however when it comes to cows, I figure what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Besides, it’s a nice technological counterpart to the view I have from my kitchen window of cows having calves.

It is really interesting to watch cows who don’t know that they’re being watched. Even during other times of the year when I’m peeping on them out in the pasture from a quarter mile away with my binoculars, they’re still aware that I’m there watching them. Their prey mentality makes it kind of hard to sneak up on a cow and pull a fast one on her. This makes the cow-cams a bit more fun and we’ve made a few interesting observations. If you catch a cow or heifer in the process of calving, you better not blink because you’ll miss it. The whole process is quick. It’s also really fun to watch baby calves get up just moments after being born. Of course, you can see this in person too, but again, cows are distracted by a person’s presence and they act much differently than when they are left completely alone. I was pretty sure that our calves were quick to get up and nurse, but now that I can watch them in action from the comfort of my home, I’ve been quite surprised at just how quick they are to get up and at ‘em.

We’ve always had a policy of no television in our bedrooms, however because of the orientation of our barn to our house, the closest and most logical room to set up the television is in – you guessed it – our bedroom. When you add a couple TV monitors, a few wires, antennae, and three interested children into the smallest room in our home, it gets a bit crowded, not to mention it becomes an Interior Decorating Don’t. Fortunately the gadgets are temporary and my decorating skills are already pretty inadequate so the effects are minimal. Another beneficial side-effect has been my motivation to keep our room very clean in the event that my Other Half drags some interested person into our room to show them how crisp and clear the video is.

There have been other less obvious benefits to the cow-cam as well. One camera pans 360 degrees, providing a great shot of the entire barnyard, including our horses and our diabolical mule, Dexter. It definitely doesn’t hurt to be able to continuously monitor Dexter via video surveillance especially when his mischief often peaks at this time of year. It can be also useful for me to keep tabs on my Other Half, generally creeping on him at random intervals…. I mean “making sure he’s safe.”

Overall, I’d say we’ve gotten our money’s worth out of the cameras. When we all gather around the television to watch whether High Society, Buttercup or Sabrina are about to go into labour, I realize we’ve found our ultimate reality TV show.

Please pass the popcorn.

Dexter caught on camera.

Dexter caught on camera.

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