In this article, CAFRE’s Pamela Gardiner explores virtual fencing – what it is, the technology, training animals, and setting it up.
Are you sitting on the fence?
Are you fed up spending time and money on traditional fencing tasks?
Do you want your livestock to get access to pasture that has been unused due to inadequate boundaries? Would you consider a virtual fence?
What is virtual fencing?
Virtual fencing is an invisible fencing system whereby a grazing animal wears a GPS collar unit, which plays an audible melody.
The signal resembles a scale of tones, starting at a low pitch and rising gradually as the animal approaches the virtual boundary to deter it from crossing the line.
The animal will recognise this tone scale, turn and go back to the permitted pasture to avoid an electric pulse.
The technology consists of an app on your device and a GPS collar on your animals that communicate over your mobile network.
The collar sends status reports to the app on a regular basis, or the user can ask for real-time positions of their animals.
You are notified of incidents such as electric pulses or escapes immediately via push notifications from the app.
The system works in one direction only, so any escapees can always re-join the herd.
After downloading the app to your phone, define your grazing area by drawing a polygon on the map function within the app.
Once you create your area, assign the collars to your animals by entering the name of the animal/animal ID against each collar.
Once you assign the collars, choose all the collars that are going to be in the same grazing area. Move the collars into the grazing area on the app.
Fit your collars to your animals and move them into their grazing area. When the collars detect they are within the grazing area, the operating mode activates, and you are set up.
Most systems also allow you to set up more advanced features such as exclusion zones (close off areas within your grazing area where you do not want animals to go) and shelter beacons (disables the collar’s GPS receive)
For example, if your animals can access to a shed within the grazing area where the GPS signal will be poor.
Training your animals
When you initially fit the collars to the animals, train them to learn the relationship between the audio warning, electric pulse, and virtual boundary.
Create a grazing area that overlaps the physical fenced area. The animals are fenced in by both physical fencing and one virtual fence line.
The training grazing area may be one to four hectares. This depends on numbers and forage but should be modest.
The animals come into contact with the virtual boundary during the first days. However, it still should big enough to provide sufficient food and space so they keep calm during training.
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