Virtual Fencing-A Corrective or Substantive Paradigm

Title Virtual Fencing-A Corrective or Substantive Paradigm
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsAnderson D.M.
Date Published9/26/2013

Grazing and browsing animals play a pivotal role in converting plant tissue into edible as well as non-edible products and services that support man's continually changing life styles. With domestication came the task of providing animals an adequate plane of nutrition for growth and reproduction while simultaneously managing vegetation for sustainable production. Attempting to resolve these two seemingly opposing management goals has occupied much of range animal ecology research to date. Today's demands for multiple goods and services from rangelands places even more of a focus on bringing about optimum livestock production with the smallest "hoof print" possible. Virtual fencing (VF) is an evolving methodology of animal control that requires at least a rudimentary understanding of the atmospheric sciences, soil science, plant science, animal science, the global navigation satelite system (GNSS), geographic information systems (GIS), ethology and 21st century electronics. Melding these diverse disciplines together to produce a methodology for controlling free-ranging animals stands out as holding much promise for managing animal dominated landscapes. When VF becomes a commercial reality the use of manual labor to control livestock will largely be replaced with cognitive labor that will result in prescription based livestock management that is robust, accurate, precise and flexible. By managing the spatio-temporal aspects of foraging in real-time controlled utilization of vegetation will be possible with prescription like precision. The end result will be ecosystem management capable of providing optimum plant as well as realistic growing conditions for animals without detracting from the additional demands being placed on rangelands today for goods and services beyond just providing nutrition for free-ranging livestock and wildlife. The methodology of VF should not be viewed as simply a new tool to caITy on current management but rather it offers the possibility of providing the basis for a new paradigm shift in managing stocking density in real-time. This approach to livestock management can be thought of as "virtual shepherding" for the 21st century.