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Animals 2019, 9(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9010005

Temporary Exclusion of Cattle from a Riparian Zone Using Virtual Fencing Technology

1
Agriculture and Food, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, New England Highway, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia
2
Adjunct to School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
3
Agersens, Pty Ltd., Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 2 November 2018 / Revised: 17 December 2018 / Accepted: 20 December 2018 / Published: 22 December 2018
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Simple Summary

Cattle can help to graze riparian zones when managed effectively. Virtual fencing technology, where cattle wear collar devices that provide audio followed by electrical signals around a GPS-based fence, could be used in areas that are difficult to physically fence. An early experimental automated collar device prototype was tested in excluding 10 cattle from a riparian zone in Australia. Animals were given free access to an 11.33-hectare area for three weeks, excluded from river access by a virtual fence for ten days (2.86-hectare inclusion zone), followed by free access again for six days. Animals were almost exclusively contained by the virtual fence. All animals approached the virtual fence over the trial duration and received both audio cues and electrical stimuli, but individual animals differed in how often they tested the virtual boundary. Over time, animals learned to respond to the audio cue alone to avoid receiving an electrical stimulus. Following fence deactivation all animals re-entered the previously excluded area. Further research with more groups and longer periods of exclusion using updated collar devices would determine the scope of virtual fencing technology for cattle grazing control.

Abstract

Grazing cattle can both negatively and positively impact riparian zones, dependent on controlled grazing management. Virtual fencing technology, using collar devices that operate via GPS can provide audio cues and electrical stimuli to temporarily exclude cattle from specified areas as desired. An early experimental prototype automated virtual fencing system was tested in excluding ten cattle from a riparian zone in Australia. Animals were given free access to an 11.33-hectare area for three weeks, excluded from river access by a virtual fence for ten days (2.86-hectare inclusion zone), followed by free access again for six days. Animals were almost exclusively contained by the virtual fence. All animals received audio cues and electrical stimuli with daily fence interactions, but there was high individual variation with some animals first approaching the fence more often than others. Overall, there was an approximately 25% probability that animals would receive an electrical stimulus following an audio cue. Individual associative learning may have been socially-facilitated by the group’s behaviour. Following fence deactivation, all animals re-entered the previously excluded area. Further research with more groups and longer periods of exclusion using updated collar devices would determine the scope of virtual fencing technology for cattle grazing control. View Full-Text
Keywords: commercial; GPS; group behaviour; associative learning; automated technology; welfare commercial; GPS; group behaviour; associative learning; automated technology; welfare
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Campbell, D.L.M.; Haynes, S.J.; Lea, J.M.; Farrer, W.J.; Lee, C. Temporary Exclusion of Cattle from a Riparian Zone Using Virtual Fencing Technology. Animals 2019, 9, 5.

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