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Cow wears prototype "virtual fence": Link to photo information
Production models of the "virtual fence" would be considerably smaller than the prototype this cow is wearing.


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The Cow Whisperer Rounds up Cattle with Cyber Cues

By Don Comis
November 20, 2000

Dean Anderson, a.k.a. the "Cow Whisperer," has a cooperative agreement with Future Segue of Las Cruces, N.M., to develop his patented cow "roundup" collar for commercial use as a virtual fence.

His computerized collar prototype whispers electronic versions of the cowboy's ancient "Gee" (go right) and "Haw" (go left) cues into the cow's ears. It locates cows with a Global Positioning System receiver tuned to satellite signals. The collar is similar to those used to train dogs.

Anderson is an animal scientist with the Agricultural Research Service in Las Cruces. ARS is the chief scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Anderson's invention will not replace cowboys riding the range, but it will help them accomplish their goals and work on "cow time"--which is preferable to human clocks when it comes to managing animals and their behaviors. This reduces stress for both the cowboys and the cows. It also saves money by eliminating costly fencing.

Ranchers would program future cues based on a cow's demonstrated preferences and would give cues only when the cow is on the move. Since the system is automatic, cues can be given at any time of the day or night, instead of at the rancher's convenience or inconvenience. If a cow ignores all sound cues, mild electrical shocks follow.

Anderson's collar automates the husbandry principles of better known practitioners of low-stress animal management, such as Buck Brannaman--the real "Horse Whisperer," played by Robert Redford in the movie by that name.

To learn more about this research, see "The Cyber Cow Whisperer and His Virtual Fence" in the November Agricultural Research magazine.

Scientific contact: Dean M. Anderson, ARS Southern Plains Area Range Management Research Unit, Las Cruces, N.M., phone (505) 646-5190, fax (505) 646-5889,