Virtual fence: cattle in collars studied at OSU for the high-tech future of ranching

STILLWATER, Oklahoma (KFOR) – OSU researchers are working on game-changing technology for ranchers, using virtual fencing for livestock.

“It’s kind of a historic cowboy job, to get up on the firing range and check the fence and that sort of thing,” said Ryan Reuter, from the Animal and Food Sciences Department at OSU. .

But over the years, technology has advanced in all areas, even the most literal.

Today, OSU is working with a virtual fencing company named Vence to help it take it even further.

Some of the cattle owned by OSU are fitted with collars similar to those worn by dogs in yards with electric fences, but with a few differences.

“There is no wire buried in the ground,” Reuter said. “There is no physical infrastructure in the pasture. It receives instructions from the base station on where you want the cattle to stay, then the GPS chip in the collar tracks wherever the cattle go.

Some cattle have been wearing the collars for over a year.

“When they get too close to a limit, the cattle beep and they learn very quickly that when that collar beeps, they have to turn around and go the other way,” Reuter said. “If they don’t turn around, that provides an electronic stimulus to let them know that the audio means we don’t want you to go to that part of the pasture.”

Breeders can access their virtual fences through software.

This makes it easier for them to manage their pastures than with traditional fences which can be expensive to build and difficult to move.

“Sometimes they just don’t look good in certain environments where you’d rather not have a fence,” Reuter said. “Especially if you want to do intensive grazing management, where you need a lot of fencing. “

This study combines the work of the Department of Animal Sciences as well as the Water Resources Center – for the benefit of livestock and the ecosystem.

“That’s what got me excited, the ability to implement all of these very intensive management practices without all the infrastructure and manpower needed for all the other conventional practices,” said Kevin Wagner, director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Center at OSU.

Similar studies have been underway since the 1970s and 1980s, but the technology has advanced so much that it is now more affordable.

OSU researchers are working on it with California-based Vence and say their work at Stillwater is just beginning.

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