Virtual fencing of nursing cattle grazing large pastures of Chihuahuan Desert rangelands

TitleVirtual fencing of nursing cattle grazing large pastures of Chihuahuan Desert rangelands
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsNyamuryekung'e S, Cox A, Perea A., McIntosh MM, Estell RE, Cibils AF, Holland J., Waterhouse T, Duff G., Funk M., Aney S, Spiegal S., Bestelmeyer BT, Utsumi S.A
Conference NameSociety for Range Management
ARIS Log Number399331
Keywordscattle grazing, Chihuahuan Desert, large pastures, nursing, rangelands, virtual fencing

Virtual fencing (VF) is an emerging technology to control livestock dispersal. This technology includes collars that employ auditory-electric pulse cues to deter animals from trespassing into excluded zones. Our objective was to investigate VF application on extensive rangelands. VF-trained nursing Brangus cows were grazed in a 480 ha pasture at the New Mexico State University’s Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center with the VF deactivated (control) or activated using three different polygon configurations. The VF-activated polygons excluded cattle from grazing either the East (209ha), West (200ha), or preferred Vegetation PV (80ha) within the pasture. Each pasture deployment lasted a week and the process was repeated on two groups of 11 and 18 cows, respectively. We analyzed 1) foraging behavior differences (control vs. VF-activated); 2) percentage of daily GPS locations within the excluded zones (control vs. VF-activated); and 3) number of auditory-electric pulses emitted during each VF-activated configuration (Excluded blocks East, West, or PV). The data were analyzed via an ANOVA to compare daily-derived variables. Cattle covered larger areas during control vs. VF-activated deployments (134.2 vs. 86.9ha P=0.04) with no differences in distance traveled nor cumulative activity index derived from the in-built motion sensors. When compared to the control, all VF-activated configurations significantly reduced the percentage of GPS positions within the excluded zone (East 52.27 vs. 0.67%GPS P0<.01; West 18.49 vs. 0.49%GPS P<0.01; PV 19.90 vs. 3.04%GPS P<0.01; control vs. VF-activated respectively). Significantly (P<0.01) higher audio and electric pulses (2.09, 0.51 respectively) were emitted during the PV trials compared to East (1.12, 0.17) or West (1.12, 0.14) blocks. In conclusion, VF holds promise in controlling spatial exploration patterns of cattle in extensive rangelands. Polygon configuration requires further research to understand trade-offs between animal welfare and effective management.