GPS technology offers alternative to paddock fences
€300 virtual fence 'shocks' cows into staying put
A farm without fences? A grass map of every paddock? Calving alerts? Welcome to dairy farming in the 21st century.
The emergence of low-cost global positioning satellite (GPS) technology is set to eliminate the need for paddock fencing, broaden the scope of grass measuring devices, and help farmers save more calves at birth if exhibits at the Moorepark'15 open day were anything to go by.
Scientists are on the cusp of commercialising the same technology that has been used in dog collars to keep dogs from roaming outside their owner's property.
A collar, embedded with a GPS device, emits a beep when a cow moves beyond a certain point in the field. If she goes a few metres further, she gets a shock similar to that off an electric wire.
The invisible boundary can be infinitely altered by the farmer drawing lines on a map on their computer screen.
"We're developing a teaching protocol for the cow, and they are proving to be fast learners," said lead researcher, Christina Umstatter. She has been working on prototypes for years in a joint project between Swiss and Irish agri-researchers.
"The same system works perfectly for dogs, so there's no reason why it won't work for cows. The only difference is that the old systems relied on some kind of a cable laid down in the ground to determine the perimeter.
"This system requires no infrastructure at all, except fencing around the outside of the farm to keep other people's animals out," she said.