Farm Security Camera

aka Kidding Cams!

Farm Security Camera

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’ve bred dairy goats for about 12 years and last year was the first time I used a farm security camera! What was I thinking before? That multiple nighttime trips to the cold barn were fun? That being unable to run errands a week before or after due dates was a minor inconvenience? Well, call me slow, but I finally realized there was a better way to be present when new kids arrived without upending my life.

Farm security camera choices were overwhelming, so I asked for advice from someone who had already done the work: my good friend Laurie Stutz at Tall & Small Dairy Goats near Fort Collins, Colorado. Her reply was: “Purchasing a barn camera is on the top of my list of must-haves to make it through kidding season … worth its weight in gold. Save just one kid and you’ve more than covered the cost of the entire setup.” Laurie used a Google NEST camera, and since she was happy with hers, that’s what I bought. It was easy to purchase and install. With a little help from my husband, we were up and running in no time. 

I lost a lot of sleep the first night because I was so darn curious about what my doe did all night that I couldn’t stop staring at the monitor from the comfort of my bed. I was amazed at how much she moved around in her stall. But after the first night, I only checked in occasionally. I also ran errands, checking on her from the grocery store or while waiting in line at the post office. And when two of my three first kiddings happened during snowstorms, it was a joy to sit by the fireplace sipping a glass of wine, eating goat cheese, and watching the goat stall on my kidding cam until delivery was imminent. Yes, worth its weight in gold!

Emily Hansen of Blessed Quiver Farm in Ignacio, Colorado, shared how her Reolink Argus Pro Cam saved her sanity as well as a doeling’s life. Her doe went into labor on a cold February day when Emily was home with four young (human) kids. She couldn’t camp out in the kidding stall the whole time but watched on the camera and ran out when the doe started pushing two healthy kids. She thought the doe was done so went back inside, but as she watched on the camera, the doe started pushing again. After 30 minutes with no new baby emerging, Emily went back out to the barn, rearranged the stuck doeling, and pulled her out safely. I’d say her camera paid for itself that day!

farm security camera aka Nanny Cam
Emily’s doe, trying to push out a third baby. Emily rearranged the stuck doeling and pulled her out safely. 

Convinced? Here are some things to consider before purchasing your Nanny Cam:

 “Must-Have” Features:

  1. Remote viewing on phone or computer: Run errands, stand inside — no need to be tied to the barn 24/7 around due dates.
  2. Good night vision: Be able to see what’s going on in the barn while you’re warm and cozy in bed. 
  3. Weather-resistant design: Even if your camera is going in a barn stall, buy something intended for outdoor use. There will be wild temperature fluctuations, dust, moisture, and potential wind in your barn.
  4. Sound: Be able to hear what’s going on so you can listen for that “pushing” vocalization.

Other Features to Consider:

  1.  Wireless vs wired: If you have electricity and an outlet near your kidding stall, a plug-in may be fine. But if you want more flexibility in where to place your camera or you have no electricity, consider a long-range wireless camera that runs on batteries.
  2. Barn camera without Wi-Fi: If you don’t have internet, have no fear. You can purchase a cellular wireless barn camera. You can also get barn camera systems that connect to each other and run on their own proprietary networks once they are turned on.

Oher Challenges and Solutions:

  1.  Batteries: Some versions use up battery power quickly, and although they may come with rechargeable batteries, these can be expensive. Other systems only use the battery when you are actively watching, which makes them last a lot longer.  And still other models have optional solar chargers.
  2. Metal barns can interfere with Wi-Fi signal: I have a wooden barn and had no problem having my Wi-Fi go through several walls between my house and the kidding stall. But if you have a metal barn, a Wi-Fi extender can improve the connection.
  3. Privacy concerns: Some people may be concerned about hackers breaking into their security system or being spied on and listened to by someone else. If this device was in my home, I’d be more concerned about these issues than I am with a camera that is focused on my kidding stall. If hackers want to watch my does labor and deliver, have at it! But seriously, there are ways to protect yourself from intrusions including:
  • Choose a router with Wi-Fi Protected Access which encrypts your data.
  • Use a strong password.
  • Use two-factor authentication it it’s offered.

Where to buy a farm security camera:

Expect to spend $70 to $200 for a decent camera. There are hundreds of options, and this is not meant to be an exhaustive review, but here are some thoughts about where and how to buy yours:

  1. My favorite method is word-of-mouth: Talk to friends about models and what they like and don’t like about their systems. Then find out where they got theirs and how satisfied they were with the shopping experience.
  2. For advice and to have your questions answered by a live salesperson, consider shopping at a store like Best Buy, Radio Shack, Lowes, Home Depot, or Target.
  3. Shopping online is sometimes more efficient. Comparison-shop and read reviews at all of the above store websites plus Amazon.
  4. If buying American is important to you, look for brands like Honeywell, Ubiquiti, Speco Technologies, and Digital Watchdog.

Most security cameras come with a limited warranty, but check the details for the specific camera you choose.

While I mainly use my barn camera to watch for signs of labor and delivery, there are other useful reasons to have a farm security camera. This includes checking on mama and baby after delivery to make sure mom is eating and babies are nursing and active. You might also be on the lookout for predators or other intruders. The bottom line is that a kidding camera keeps you more connected to your animals. And who knows what you’ll learn from watching them when they don’t know you’re looking!

Originally published in the March/April 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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