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Originally written by Taylor Grussing, former SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.

Labor is one of the most valuable resources on the ranch, and producers often try to utilize their time wisely to decrease hours spent on a project. Producers can potentially decease time spent in certain areas of the ranch with the use of modern video technology thus allowing them to multitask. Calving season is quickly approaching which means producers will be performing calf checks every 3 – 5 hours day and night. So what if we could check cows while running errands in town or skip bundling up and slipping on boots at midnight and check cows while in the warmth of the house? With the use of video equipment, producers can stay warmer during the calving season with the use of a camera as their eyes on the outside watching over the herd.


Search “calving barn video equipment” on the Internet and there are several companies that provide camera equipment for outdoor use. In addition, depending on the type of system you want to use, video security and surveillance companies may also be utilized for optimum monitoring.

Some criteria to consider when choosing a camera system include:

  • Type of Camera – Single direction view versus pan, tilt, zoom, night vision etc. cameras. Outdoor cameras should always be utilized in order to stand up to the elements with weatherproof protection. Color or B/W cameras can be selected based on preference.
  • Software – Software packages may be required for some systems to access data and control camera view based on single or multiple camera locations. Wireless routers and antennas will be necessary in the barn or pen for signal transmission. Most companies allow multiple cameras to be placed and controlled by a single software program.
  • Transmission – Depending on the type of building, mobile service and distance from the router, additional antennas may be needed to transmit the signal additional distance.
  • Installation Services – An initial installation fee may be charged to synch the camera with router and software. In addition, some systems may have a monthly fee for 24/7 maintenance.
  • Storage – If you want to keep the video/data for future reference, choose a company that offers storage online or via another storage system.
  • Home or on the Go Service – Cameras may stream video to a monitor in the home office, as well as some companies also allow access from a Mobile App on smart phones.
  • Customer Service – Are there professionals available to assist you with setting up, maintaining your cameras, troubleshooting, etc. Choose a system that works for you, but if you have trouble knowing where to find help is critical to the effectiveness of the video equipment.
  • Cost – Camera systems can be purchased for as low as $100 all the way up to values exceeding $2500 for professional surveillance systems. The value of your labor and animals come into play when deciding what system to utilize for the best return on investment.

Year-Round Use

Ranch video surveillance is not just for use during calving season either. After the calves are born, some video systems can be moved to new locations to watch feed yards for sickness or daily maintenance. Going on vacation? Set up the cameras to watch machinery, grain bins, or fuel tanks.

Calving Management

Calving barn video technology should not be used to replace proper calving management, but to assist you in managing your labor resources. Always make sure there is adequate square footage and ventilation for the number of pregnant females in the barn. Also, allow enough room for females to separate themselves from the other cows if needed. Always prepare the calving barn with fresh bedding and keep calving assistance equipment nearby. For more information on calving management, contact a Veterinarian or SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.

Picture that is seen via an indoor camera. Camera can be panned to the left and right, up and down, as well as zoomed in. Photos Courtesy of Christy Mogck.
Location specific picture of calving pen, allowing producers to watch pens close up after an assisted birth. Photos Courtesy of Christy Mogck.
Outdoor camera image, allowing producers to watch cows not penned in a barn for calving activity. Photos Courtesy of Christy Mogck.

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