Colorful GPS cow collars now help farmers track the whereabouts of their livestock and direct them to preferred grazing areas. The eShepherd program, created by Australia-based Agersens, is being tested in the cattle industry here in the U.S.
“It’s a grazing control tool to improve productivity and profitability in a sustainable way,” says Agersens’ CEO Ian Reilly. “The technology fully automates the controlled grazing of livestock 24/7.” The system uses virtual fencing that can be controlled by an app from anywhere the farmer happens to be. The cow hears a sound when it is getting too close to a boundary, and if it doesn’t veer away, it receives a small electric pulse.
This post is based on the Forbes article, How One Australian Startup Aims To Revolutionize Livestock Management, by Nicole Rasul, March 31, 2019. Image source: famveldman © 123RF.com
1. How does using the livestock collar affect productivity?
Guidance: The collar helps farmers apply rotational grazing practices that allow areas to regrow and improve in nutritional content, thus benefiting livestock health. Rather than building and moving costly fences to rotate grazing areas, farmers can quickly and easily adjust where the cows graze. Its takes one to two years of use for the collars to pay off, so after that, costs are lower and productivity improves. In addition, a recent study indicated that cows directed by rotational grazing generated more income for farmers than cows raised in confined areas.
2. How commonplace is this practice, or how likely is it to be implemented in the future?
Guidance: Some industry experts believe that virtual fencing will be the norm by 2040. In Europe, farmers are already using the technology with goats.
3. In what ways is virtual fencing related to sustainability?
Guidance: In addition to the animal welfare benefit of helping keep cows healthy by rotating where they graze, environmental benefits are realized as well. Some conservation groups find the practice to be “wildlife friendly,” as it doesn’t impact the movements of other creatures, nor does it require hardscaping of environmentally-sensitive land.