GPS-controlled fencing systems for ranching have been a topic of interest for many years. The idea of using GPS or geolocation to control the movements of livestock without the need for traditional collars has intrigued ranchers and researchers alike. George Walker, a farmer from Minnesota, and Mike and Dana Campbell, ranchers from Colorado, share their experiences with using the fencing system.
Virtual Fence options for your ranch
George Walker, along with his wife and family, runs a direct-to-consumer farm where they sell beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. They also have another entity called Walking Old Land and Livestock, where they focus on selling animals on federal lease. The federal lease is located about five miles away from their farm and covers around 5,000 acres. George and his team have been using the fencing system on this lease to reduce their reliance on polywire and reels. The system allows them to control the movements of their animals and push them into specific impact areas, as suggested by biologists from the refuge.
In Minnesota, federal leases for ranching are not as common as they are in the western states. George acknowledges that some people are skeptical about the idea of using cows on federal leases due to negative media portrayals. However, he believes that the system is a powerful tool for managing the impact of cattle on these leased lands. The biologists have shown him the differences in diversity between areas where cattle were present and where they were not. The Vence system not only helps in managing the cattle's movements but also reduces the labor required to maintain traditional fences.
Mike and Dana Campbell, on the other hand, run their ranch in the high desert valley near Maybell, Colorado. They lease the majority of their property from various entities, including their family, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, BLM, and State Land Board. Their elevation ranges from 6,000 to 7,200 feet, and the average plant height in their area is around 10 inches or less. They run a few hundred cattle each year and face different challenges compared to George's farm in Minnesota.
The Vence fencing system was introduced to George through a presentation by Gray's Tech, a company that specializes in this technology. However, the system they initially presented was not suitable for the terrain in George's area. Despite that, George recognized the potential of GPS-controlled fencing and continued to explore other options.
George highlights the benefits of using GPS-controlled fencing systems like Vence. These systems provide ranchers with greater control over their livestock's movements, allowing them to manage grazing impact more effectively. By strategically guiding cattle into specific areas, ranchers can improve diversity and overall land health. Additionally, GPS-controlled fencing systems reduce the labor and maintenance costs associated with traditional fencing methods.
Tower-based system for communication
One of the key elements of a GPS-controlled fencing system is the tower-based system for communication. This system relies on the use of towers to transmit signals and allow for effective communication between the different components of the system.
George Walker, Mike Campbell, and Dana Campbell discuss their experiences with this tower-based system. They chose this system because of the limited cell service in their area. Without reliable cell service, a tower-based system becomes crucial for effective communication.
The process of setting up the tower-based system involves installing towers on the property. This tower allows for coverage of the valleys and ensures that there is a strong signal throughout their properties. The tower acts as a communication tool, allowing for the transmission of signals between the different components of the GPS-controlled fencing system.
One challenge is the issue of foliage. The dense foliage can interfere with the signal strength and make it difficult for the tower to sync up. This is something that they are working on and trying to find solutions for.
Despite the challenges, the tower-based system has proven to be effective for George, Mike, and Dana. They can cover a large area with their three towers, totaling 129,000 acres. This not only benefits them but also their neighbors and other people in the area who may need access to the system.
Another aspect of the tower-based system is the use of collars on the animals. These collars are battery-operated and do not have a solar panel. This means that the batteries need to be replaced periodically, depending on the frequency of pinging.There are ongoing efforts to improve this aspect of the system and potentially integrate solar panels to extend the battery life.
Virtual fence system for cattle
This innovative technology utilizes GPS and electronic collars to create an imaginary boundary for the cattle, keeping them within a designated area. The system works by emitting a tone to warn the cattle when they approach the boundary, and if they continue to cross it, they receive a mild electric shock.
One of the advantages of the virtual fence system is its flexibility. It can be easily set up and adjusted using a laptop computer. By drawing the desired boundary on the computer, the system communicates with the collars worn by the cattle to establish the imaginary line. This allows farmers to control the movement of their livestock without the need for physical fences.
However, it is important to note that the virtual fence system is not yet fully mobile-friendly. It currently requires the use of a laptop computer rather than a mobile device. This limitation may pose challenges for farmers who need to monitor and control their cattle while on the go. The system's developers have chosen to prioritize desktop compatibility and are likely to address this issue in future updates.
One of the concerns is how the cattle will associate the sound and shock with the virtual boundary. It is compared to the challenge of training a dog with an invisible fence. They initially trained their cattle using a physical electric fence, which provided a visual cue. This helped the cattle understand the connection between the sound and shock and the boundary. However, they found that the cows adapted to the virtual fence system more quickly than the yearlings did, suggesting that the training process may vary depending on the age and experience of the cattle.
The transition from a physical fence to a virtual fence system can be challenging. It requires a period of adjustment for the cattle to become accustomed to the new system. Similar to training with a regular electric fence, the cattle need time to get used to the virtual boundary and understand its limitations. They made the leap from a physical fence to a virtual fence system when moving to a larger pasture. They used visual cues, such as roads and hills, to assist the cattle in recognizing the boundary. Overall, they found that most of the cattle stayed within the virtual fence, with only a few exceptions.
There are advantages of the virtual fence system in terms of managing conflicts with people. The system eliminates the risk of people driving through or tampering with physical fences. This is particularly relevant for farmers who operate on public land, where there may be a higher risk of interference. However, they have some concerns about people spooking the cattle and causing them to run through the virtual fence. So far, they have not encountered this issue, but it remains a potential concern.
Electric fence prevents animal escape
Electric fences are becoming increasingly popular in the agricultural industry as a means of preventing animal escape. These fences utilize technology to create a barrier that is both effective and efficient in keeping livestock contained. One of the main advantages of electric fences is their ability to provide a secure enclosure for livestock without the need for physical barriers. Traditional fences can be expensive to install and maintain, and they can also be easily damaged by animals or weather conditions. Electric fences, on the other hand, are relatively affordable and require minimal maintenance. They can be easily installed and adjusted to fit the specific needs of the rancher.
One of the main concerns is the potential for animals or people to get shocked. Some individuals may not understand how electric fences work and may accidentally touch them, resulting in a shock. This can lead to lawsuits or damage to the fence if someone tries to take it down. To mitigate this risk, it is suggested to use clear signage to inform people about the presence of the electric fence.
Another challenge is the issue of visibility. Some people may not see the electric fence and assume that the animals are loose. This can result in unnecessary phone calls and concerns from the public. To address this, they have been running a poly line, which is a visible fence, alongside the electric fence on main roads. This helps to reassure people that the animals are contained and prevents unnecessary calls.
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