2011 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.
Project staff from Cornell University and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) were trained in Global Positioning System (GPS) collar refit and repair procedures at the Northwest Watershed Research Center (NWRC) in Boise, Idaho during April 18-21, 2011. Immediately after receiving the ARS Budget Execution Notice on May 24, 2011, GPS collar construction supplies, batteries, and collar circuit board assemblies were ordered. Radio telemetry (VHF) transmitters developed by Merlin Systems Inc. in Boise, Idaho were adapted and tested for integration into GPS collars. Sixty GPS collars were constructed and GPS, data logging, and VHF radio systems were tested by NWRC and Cornell staff during July 11-18, 2011. An example GPS collar was constructed and shipped on July 5, 2011 to ILRI staff in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for use in developing pastoralist cooperation with the research project. The 60 GPS collars, equipped with VHF transmitters having individual frequencies in the 433-434 MHz band (assigned by the Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency), were shipped to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 19, 2011 for August 3-19, 2011 deployment on cattle in southern Ethiopia. Research progress and status are reported via regular project teleconference calls, onsite visits and frequent email. The agreement was established in support of Objective 4 of the in-house project, the goal being to evaluate the effects of landscape-scale disturbance such as fire, invasive plants, and predation on livestock productivity and livestock use of stream systems and other critical resouces of sagebrush-steppe ecosystems throughout the Intermountain West so producers and land managers can employ adaptive management and better plan for changes in animal resources use and productivity.