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Don't fence me in: clever collar keeps cows in a virtual paddock


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Don't fence me in: clever collar keeps cows in a virtual paddock

Richard Macey

June 14, 2007

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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Bovines without borders … cows model the new collars.

IT'S the cry of farmers when city folk visit: "Shut the bloody gate."

After three years of research, Australian scientists have come up with a solution to keeping the animals in - the virtual fence.

"It's like an electric fence, except it's invisible," Andrew Fisher, leader of a research team at the CSIRO's Livestock Industries division in Armidale, said yesterday.

A farmer would create the virtual fence by mapping out the proposed boundary using a computer linked to a satellite global positioning system.

The livestock to be fenced in would wear battery-powered collars around their necks. If a cow, for example, wandered within a metre or two of the virtual fence the collar, fitted with a GPS chip, would emit a warning hum. If the cow ignored the sound and crossed the line it would receive a mild electric shock, less powerful than those used by electric fences.

Dr Fisher said experiments showed that cattle took less than an hour to learn to back off when they heard the warning hum.

He expected sheep would be equally easy to train.

He said the technology, observed by independent animal welfare and ethics experts, was humane. Monitoring of the heart rates and hormone levels of cattle in the experiments showed the stresses were no greater than those of routine farm life.

While commercial versions of the virtual fence were probably five to 10 years away, Dr Fisher said the technology would bring significant labour savings to farmers, especially on properties where livestock had to be shifted frequently from pasture to pasture. But conventional rural fences would still have a place: "Farms will always need to have an outer boundary."

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