Agersens’ research program into the effect of virtual fencing on animal behaviour continues with the publication of an important peer reviewed paper. It was co-authored by Agersens’ Animal Behaviour Scientist Sally Haynes, Project Engineer Will Farrer, and the CSIRO with Dr Dana Campbell as the lead author. The paper indicates that cattle are able to adapt to moving virtual fence lines surprisingly quickly and with very little impact on behaviour. The research was carried out at CSIRO Chiswick, Armidale in New South Wales.
Recently published by the open access journal, Animals, the paper outlines the results of heifer behaviour in response to both a static and a moving virtual fence line. Not only did the cattle increasingly stay within the virtual paddock using audio cues alone but they also approached the new fence after approximately 4 hours. That the heifers responded to the audio cue, not the fence location itself, is one of the great benefits of the training algorithm that is central to eShepherd™. For farmers, it means that they can implement a cell grazing system using a virtual fence and the cattle will freely move to the new designated cell within hours.
Another key finding of the research was that during the trial there was no observable impact on activity and resting behavior of cattle. This is extremely relevant to livestock producers as improved animal health and wellbeing supports productive and profitable farms. Using eShepherd™ to implement break feeding allows cattle to regularly access fresh pasture without causing detrimental changes in behaviour or an increase in stress.
Read the entire paper, entitled “Tech-Savvy Beef Cattle? How Heifers Respond to Moving Virtual Fence Lines”
From the University of Sydney, Dr. Sabrina Lomax and Dr. Cameron Clark have recently completed the first series of experiments that investigated the variation between cattle in their individual response to virtual herding cues. The study looked at the personality traits of cattle from the more fearful animal, to the curious leaders, and measured their different reactions. These studies are a vital step in developing a strong animal behaviour management system.
Agersens also has a number of ongoing virtual fence trials around Australia to further research in the area. Some of these trials will determine how a virtual fence contributes to animal welfare through better feeding, less injuries and sickness and ensuring a quieter mustering process. Teams will be measuring the ways in which animal behaviour can be shaped and managed to further advance virtual fencing technology.