Training beef cattle to use virtual fence systems

TitleTraining beef cattle to use virtual fence systems
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsNyamuryekung'e S., Cox A, Perea A., Estell RE, Cibils AF, Holland JP, Waterhouse T, Duff G., Funk M., Aney S, McIntosh MM, Spiegal SA, Bestelmeyer BT, Utsumi S.A
Conference Name2nd US Precision Livestock Farming Conference May 2023
Date Published08/03/2022
ARIS Log Number396802
Keywordsanimal wearable collars, beef cattle, fence boundary, training, virtual fence systems

Virtual fencing (VF) is an alternative method to control livestock dispersal. This method consists of the use of animal wearable collars that employ auditory-electric pulse cues to deter animals from trespassing a virtually determined fence boundary. Despite VF suggesting promising applications for Precision Livestock Farming, there is limited information on best practices to train groups of cattle to VF configurations effectively. Eleven Brangus cows of the New Mexico State University’s Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center were allocated three days to feeding areas (0.19 ha) treated with or without VF exclusions. The process was repeated for two periods (1 vs. 2), lasting six days each. The VF collars communicated real-time animal positions and activity at 15-minute and 30-minute intervals. Treatment effects of study (with vs. without VF-exclusion), period, and its interaction were analyzed via an ANOVA to compare auditory-electric pulses emitted during the deployment. The number of auditory-electric pulses per cow differed (P < 0.001) due to a study by period interaction. Exposure to VF in period 1 triggered a greater (P <0.003) frequency of auditory (3.3 vs. 0.7 ±0.3) and pulses (1.3 vs. 0.1 ±0.1) per cow than in period 2. Activation of VF reduced differently (P =0.05) the time spent on excluded areas in period 1 (7.8 vs. 1.7 ±0.4 h) and period 2 (4.8 vs. 0.0 ±0.4 h) due to treatment by period interaction. Results indicate that cows adjusted rapidly to VF configurations by minimizing the frequency of pulses and relying increasingly on auditory to alter behavior.