A scientist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is creating virtual fencing, allowing cows to graze lush pastures without repositioning fence lines.
The USDA’s Dean Anderson is testing GPS units on cows at the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, N.M. His system allows cows to be moved periodically to quality forage for optimum performance.
"It never made sense to me that we use static tools to manage dynamic resources," Anderson told Venue. His work gains value with consecutive years of drought making pastures more valuable. The GPS headset on each cow allows a producer to keep track of animals in a set space, making it easier to identify when livestock is sick or missing.
The headsets work much like invisible fences used for dogs. The headsets make a soft beep when cattle approach the boundary line, then a louder beep when cattle are closer, then a light shock. According to Venue, Anderson remains concerned with animal welfare and has tested the shock on himself to ensure it wasn’t excessive.
The Agricultural Research Service reports the boundary lines can be changed and cattle can be monitored from the truck or at home with a computer and satellite, but animals should routinely be monitored in-person to identify potential issues.
Anderson’s Directional Virtual Fencing is not currently available, but there is a company interested in his patent. The technology is expensive at the moment, but Anderson says the benefits are hard to deny.
Read the full interview here.