By Dennis O'Brien
March 25, 2009
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has agreed to grant a license to a Canadian firm interested in marketing a type of non-wire, virtual fencing technology for cows linked to global positioning.
The Directional Virtual Fencing (DVF) system sends electronic cues to a cow's ears so that it will move in a preferred direction, according to Dean M. Anderson, an ARS animal scientist at the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, N.M.
Cows must be moved periodically to quality forage for optimum performance. Animals left too long in the same area also can damage a landscape by overgrazing the standing crop. The vast open spaces on many ranches also make controlling a herd’s movements challenging.
ARS is granting the license exclusively to Krimar of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. The patented system is not intended to replace a rancher's expertise, but will be used as an animal management tool. The system will be able to steer a moving animal without inflicting physical harm.
The system locates cows with global positioning and sends auditory signals, such as a human voice, that can be raised or lowered in volume, according to Anderson. The commands can vary from familiar "gathering songs" sung by cowboys during manual round-ups to sirens designed to get cows to move or avoid entering forbidden areas.
The system is automated so ranchers can give cues at any time and track movements from a computer.
ARS has patented the technology based on experimental designs. Anderson is currently working on a commercially viable prototype that features a stereo headset around each ear.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.