Over the past few years, there has been strong movement globally about rethinking our current systems of food production. Issues of climate change are combined with a drive toward healthier animals and environmental protection in the search for a more sustainable industry. Regenerative grazing is an approach that puts an emphasis on healthy soil, environmental care, increasing biodiversity and conservation grazing in all agroecosystems. It looks at food production from a more wholistic approach that embraces a wider set of criteria rather than the narrower industrial model of the twentieth century that focuses simply on efficiencies of the supply chain.
In the area of beef production, regenerative agriculture looks to a style of grassland management that develops high pasture biomass, keeps soil as healthy as possible and builds grazing systems that benefit both animals, the environment, and people. It is in the implementation of these systems that eShepherd™ virtual fencing from Agersens brings with it an enormous number of advantages.
Promoting Soil Fertility
Virtual fencing allows a pasture manager to quickly and easily position livestock. Cattle can be moved across grassland biomes in a manner where the movement of hooves promotes soil fertility and restores the soil/plant microbiome to increase soil nutrients and overall soil conservation. The presence of manure, insects and earth bacteria contribute to this ecosystem cycle, resulting in increased biodiversity, a better pasture biomass and revitalized soil. Trampling aids in seed distribution and plant regeneration and allows many other types of plants and grassland animals to flourish. Ground nesting birds such as the Greater Sage-grouse or Lapwing also depend on an agroecosystem that provides insects for food and plants that aid in protection. However, this type of precision grazing process in temperate grassland areas must be carefully managed.
Better Pasture Management
eShepherd™ virtual fencing gives farmers more control over their pasture management without the issues of constantly moving physical fences. Accurate and real time data on livestock movement provides managers the information they need to make quick decisions. They can change grazing patterns day to day, ensuring that pasture is utilized in the best possible way. Remote management provides another layer of control, as a virtual fence can be created, adjusted or removed from anywhere in the world. For a farmer committed to sustainable farming and the principles of regenerative agriculture, virtual fencing provides both convenience and an efficient method of implementation.
Controlled Conservation Grazing
Virtual boundaries can be particularly useful for natural resource managers. In many areas of the world, farmers graze their cattle during the summer on public conservation land. However, it is usually impractical and often disallowed to build fencing in conservation areas. The eShepherd™ allows managers to control the conservation grazing scheme of their cattle and monitor their position at all times. Sensitive areas can be mapped off with a virtual boundary. In some cases, the animals can be directed to areas of invasive plant species, to help rid a conservation area of unwanted plants. Wildlife in the area have unrestricted movement as there are no physical fences.
Cattle may be released into a conservation area at the beginning of the summer and not seen for several months. These animals are more easily lost in large forested areas, especially if the brush or scrub is heavy. Some properties could lose up to 80 animals a year in these situations which is an enormous loss. Having the ability to locate these animals and recover them is of great benefit both to the farmer and the conservation authority.
Natural resource organizations have also found virtual fencing useful in managing cattle around aquatic ecosystems. Riparian zone control can be an expensive proposition as fencing next to a river for example can be destroyed by the very next flood. With an animal management system such as the eShepherd™, cattle access to waterways can be carefully controlled to ensure cattle are not muddying streams and rivers and water is kept as clean as possible. Environmental protection of natural resources is in place, without the enormous overhead of constructing temporary physical barriers.
Current trends suggest that consumers want food that is produced from sustainable practices. Consumers also want grass fed beef, in an environment that enhances ecosystems while contributing to healthy animals and healthy soil. The regenerative farming movement continues to grow and with it the challenge of how to make it happen. For those managing cattle, virtual fencing from Agersens is an important tool in meeting that challenge.