The eShepherd™ virtual fence was released for commercial trials in 2018 and immediately, beef producers have begun looking at all the different possible applications.
Here are ten intriguing ideas to implement virtual fencing that farmers, conservation managers and industry are currently discussing.
1. Rejuvenating Public Conservation Areas
Throughout the world many beef producers run their cattle on public conservation lands. This process benefits both the farmer and the conservation area as cattle aid in soil regeneration and grass rejuvenation. However, most conservation areas do not allow traditional fencing. Virtual fencing enables a beef producer to run their cattle on a conservation area and confine their cattle to the correct boundaries without physical fences.
2. Avoiding Noxious Weeds
Managing poisonous plants to livestock is an important part of good pasture control. And although many plants are unpalatable, and animals will not graze on them, others will have adverse effects on their health if eaten. In some circumstances, it is impractical to fence off infested areas. Virtual fencing gives pasture managers the ability to draw a boundary around noxious weeds. It is a quick solution that reduces the possibility of animals grazing on poisonous weeds and damaging their health.
3. Fencing on Frozen Ground
In northern climes the ground is usually frozen during winter. However, there are times during the season when a warm weather front will thaw out crops or pasture, allowing animals to graze on the vegetation, even though the ground is still frozen. Virtual fencing allows a manager to create fencing on frozen soil and keep their cattle grazing. They can also keep animals away from frozen ponds, so they do not inadvertently walk on to the ice and fall through.
4. Protecting Sensitive Nests and Burrows
Farmers have often been reluctant to spend a large amount of money fencing off a sensitive wildlife area. Ground dwelling birdlife habitats may only be there for a season and then the family of birds moves on. Virtual fencing allows farmers to create a boundary instantly. If an important nest or burrow is discovered, it can immediately be fenced off from livestock using a smartphone. If the animal or bird leaves later in the season, the virtual fence can be turned off. Virtual fencing gives farmers a quick easy way to protect native flora and fauna.
5. Cleaning Up Creeks
In New Zealand a creek may be defined as any moving body of water that is higher than your average rubber farm boot. And with a new initiative to clean up the creeks, cattle can no longer roam free over waterways. Virtual fencing allows a manager to quickly create a barrier to a newly formed waterway and once the water has subsided, the fence can be taken down again with a simple push of a button.
6. Protect Feed Bales
Cattle producers make hay while the sun shines and then often store those bales out in pastures. Cattle may be grazing in an area that contains bales for later use in the winter. Virtual fencing lets a farmer “fence off” the bales so that cattle do not start eating the bales out of turn.
7. Develop Flawless Luxury Leather
Barbed wire fencing not only traps wildlife, often causing death or injury, but also injures the hide of cattle as they come into contact with the fence. This in turn creates a scar on their skin. Top leather merchants are looking for flawless leather. Cattle raised with virtual fencing will have less lesions, marks and spots on their skin and the animal will fetch a higher price at market.
8. Regenerate Eroded Soil Areas
Beef producers in Northern Queensland are planning to use cattle to rejuvenate eroded top soil in flood plain areas. Virtual fencing allows the station manager to concentrate animals in an eroded area where their hooves can break up the clay pan. With manure and careful management, the soil can regenerate.
9. Protect the Pipe
Pipeline companies often have to bury their pipes through cattle country. It is cost prohibitive to erect fencing only for a few months as the crews work their way across farmland. Yet these areas must be separated from cattle. Virtual Fencing allows a temporary barrier to be placed between the cattle and the pipe until the pipe is buried and construction equipment removed. The farmer may then keep the fence in place until the grass has rejuvenated. The fence can then be turned off. This approach can save a great deal of money while benefitting both the company and the property.
10. Reclaim Mining Land
A mining company in Australia is using eShepherd virtual fencing to aid in pasture management of former mining areas. The virtual fence enables the company to carefully place cattle in areas where the land has been degraded and keep them away from other fragile areas that still need protection. With 24/7 monitoring of the cattle, the company can provide accurate reports to demonstrate the progress of restoration after mining activities have taken place.