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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Environmental Vulnerability, Assessment, and Monitoring of Grazing Systems under Index-Based Livestock Insurance Programs in East Africa

Location: Northwest Watershed Management Research

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective of this cooperative research project is to develop and construct GPS-based livestock tracking collars for use in evaluating the effects of an index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) program on herded livestock resource-use patterns in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya, Africa. After an initial deployment, these technologies are to be repaired, refitted, and redeployed on each of 3 to 5 experiment years. Consequently, a second objective of this project will be to provide training to on-site (Africa) personnel in data retrieval and collar repair and maintenance such that these collars can be refitted locally rather than being returned to the U.S. for refitting.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Custom GPS tracking collars will be developed and constructed for use in the parent project. Rational for using custom tracking collars over existing commercial tracking collars is based both on functionality and cost. Commercial GPS tracking collars are currently incapable of intensive temporal sampling of animal locations over long deployment periods. In addition, many reliability issues still remain in commercial GPS tracking collar technology. Custom GPS tracking collar will potentially cost an order of magnitude less to obtain and deploy. This cost savings will promote an increased sample size where, collared animals are the experimental units thus allowing us to more rigorously test IBLI treatment effects. Development of the custom GPS tracking collars will involve adapting an existing ARS-designed GPS tracking collar design to integrate a VHF telemetry tracking radio transmitter as a secondary means of relocating collared animals on remote rangelands. This adaptation will provide a false-safe, in the event of animal loss or undiscovered mortalities, allowing more successful retrieval of GPS tracking collars and the value data they contain. Manufacture, population, and assembly of printed circuit boards (PCBs) for the custom GPS collars will be contracted from a commercial U.S. vendor using the adapted design. Collar rigging parts, supplies, and materials will be purchased from U.S. suppliers. Construction of the collar rigging assembly including electronics housing, belting, mounting hardware, GPS antenna, and VHF antenna, will take place at the ARS facility in Boise, Idaho. The GPS, data logging, and VHF radio systems of the completed tracking collars will be laboratory tested to confirm proper functionality. Sample quantities of the lithium-based batteries used in the collars will be purchased from a U.S. supplier. Example battery packs for the tracking collars will be constructed at the ARS facility in Boise. Construction of these example battery packs will provide training to on-site (Africa) project personnel such that they can successfully construct battery packs needed in the future for refitting the GPS/VHF collars. Training for collar repair and refit will be provided to on-site project personnel at the ARS facility in Boise. Upon completion of a 2-day training course, trainees will be knowledgeable in collar rigging construction and will have had hands-on practice in trouble-shooting and repairing collar malfunctions. Trainees will also be well practiced in soldering, assembling and testing collar battery packs. Finally, ARS personnel will travel to the African study area and provide collar-deployment and field trouble training to on-site personnel. Documents Trust with Cornell University. Log 43690.


3.Progress Report:

Research evaluating the environmental effects of an Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) program in East Africa was conducted on the Borana Plateau of southern Ethiopia. The GPS collar rigging design was updated to improve durability during fall 2012. Sixty replacement GPS collars of this new design were constructed by ARS at the Northwest Watershed Research Center (NWRC) and shipped to International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI Addis) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During February 2013, all deployed cattle GPS collars were recovered from the five study areas on the Borana Plateau and GPS location data were downloaded and archived. Existing GPS collars were replaced with the 60, newly-designed collars and redeployed among the five study areas. Also during February 2013, an ARS scientist in Boise, Idaho, made a site visit to the Borana Plateau to train local staff in the setup and use of the replacement GPS collars and to establish updated protocols for collar refitting, data handling, and redeploying collars in the field. Research evaluating the environmental effects of the IBLI program in Ethiopia was presented by the ARS Principal Investigator at the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) Seminar Series, April 3, 2013. Remotely-sensed identification of livestock watering points throughout the Borana Plateau was conducted during June-July 2013. During August 2013, the cattle GPS collars were recovered again from the five study areas, refitted with new battery packs, data downloaded and archived, and redeployed. This agreement was established in support of objective 3, the goal being to develop adaptive grazing management strategies for shrub-steppe rangelands impacted by fire, juniper and other invasive weeds to improve livestock productivity while enhancing other ecosystems services.


Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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