Submitted to: Computers and Electronics in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/22/2006
Publication Date: 4/1/2007
Citation: Bishop-Hurley, G.J., Swain, D.L., Anderson, D.M., Sikka, P., Crossman, C., Corke, P. 2007. Virtual fencing applications: implementing and testing an automated cattle control system. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. 56:14-22. Interpretive Summary: Cattle behavior can be altered using sensory cues. Current free-ranging animal control results from visual cues arising from ground based permanent fencing materials. Though effective, permanent fencing lacks optimum economic and ecological requirements for implementing flexible management opportunities. Using an on-animal electromechanical system capable of administering audio, tactile, and visual stimuli associated with electrical stimulation it was possible to alter the rate of steer movement along an alley as individual steers moved from a release cage to a group of peers and feed 40 m away. The various cue-consequence (electrical stimulation) combinations were effective in modifying cattle behavior. However, in order to more precisely account for the large variability in the behavioral responses recorded in this study among 25 steers randomly allocated to each of five treatments (electrical stimulation alone, audio plus electrical stimulation, vibration plus electrical stimulation, light plus electrical stimulation and an electrified electric fence) a larger (n > 5) number of animals per treatment will be required in future studies. Additional research into sensory animal control will be required to optimize the potential of virtual fencing as an alternative method of free-ranging animal control.
Technical Abstract: Managing livestock movement in extensive systems has environmental and production benefits. Currently permanent wire fencing is used to control cattle; this is both expensive and inflexible. Cattle are known to respond to auditory and visual cues and we investigated whether these can be used to manipulate their behavior. Twenty-five Belmont Red steers with a mean live weight (LW) of 270 kg were each randomly assigned to one of five treatments. Treatments consisted of a combination of cues (audio, tactile and visual stimuli) and consequence (electrical stimulation). The treatments were electrical stimulation alone, audio plus electrical stimulation, vibration plus electrical stimulation, light plus electrical stimulation and electrified electric fence (6 kV) plus electrical stimulation (experimental control). Cue stimuli were administered for 3 seconds followed immediately by electrical stimulation (consequence) of 1 kV for 1 second. The experiment tested the operational efficacy of on-animal control or virtual fencing system. A collar-halter device was designed to carry the electronics, batteries and equipment providing the stimuli, including audio, vibration, light and electrical of a prototype virtual fencing device. Cattle were allowed to travel along a 40 m alley to a group of peers and feed while their rate of travel and response to the stimuli recorded. The prototype virtual fencing control system was successful in modifying the behavioural of the cattle. The rate of travel along the alley demonstrated the large variability in behavioural response associated with tactile, visual and audible cues. The experiment demonstrated virtual fencing has potential for controlling cattle in extensive grazing systems. However, larger numbers of cattle need to be tested to derive a better understanding of the behavioral variance. Further controlled experimental work is also necessary to quantify the interaction between cues, consequences and cattle learning.