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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #383600

Research Project: Restoration and Conservation of Great Basin Ecosystems

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Title: Virtual fencing effectively excludes cattle from burned sagebrush steppe

Author
item Boyd, Chad
item O'Connor, Rory
item RANCHES, JULIANA - Oregon State University
item BOHNERT, DAVID - Oregon State University
item Bates, Jonathan - Jon
item JOHNSON, DUSTIN - Oregon State University
item Davies, Kirk
item PARKER, TODD - Vence Corp
item DOHERTY, KEVIN - Us Fish And Wildlife Service

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/5/2022
Publication Date: 2/3/2022
Citation: Boyd, C.S., O'Connor, R.C., Ranches, J., Bohnert, D.W., Bates, J.D., Johnson, D.D., Davies, K.W., Parker, T., Doherty, K.E. 2022. Virtual fencing effectively excludes cattle from burned sagebrush steppe. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 81:55-62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2022.01.001.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2022.01.001

Interpretive Summary: On public lands grazing allotments in the sagebrush steppe, cattle are generally excluded from partially burned pastures for 2 years post-fire unless the burned portion of the pasture can be fenced, which is often either cost-prohibitive or involves lengthy delays associated with procedural clearances. We tested the efficacy of virtual fencing to exclude cattle from burned areas within small pastures in the sagebrush steppe of southeast Oregon. We found that virtual fencing technology was highly effective in excluding cattle from burned areas. Virtual fencing has strong potential for controlling livestock grazing distribution in instances where traditional permanent fencing is not practical or timely.

Technical Abstract: On public lands grazing allotments in the western US sagebrush steppe, cattle are generally excluded from burned pastures for 2 yr post fire. If only a portion of a pasture burns, the burned area may be fenced, allowing for cattle grazing to resume in the unburned portion. However, traditional wire-based fencing is often not an option due to expense, conflicts with wildlife management objectives, and extensive procedural logistics. We evaluated the use of a “virtual fence” (VF) for excluding cattle from burned areas within small pastures in the sagebrush steppe of southeast Oregon. VF technology (Vence Corporation, San Francisco, CA) uses satellite-controlled collars that direct animal movement within user-defined polygons using auditory and electrical cues. We fall-burned a 0.6-ha area in each of six adjacent 2.1-ha pastures in a Wyoming big sagebrush plant community in 2019. In June 2020, each pasture was stocked with 3 mature dry cows for 14 d. All cows were fitted with VF collars; collars were programed to create a virtual fence around the burned area within three of the pastures (VF treatment), and remaining pastures had electrical and auditory cues turned off (control treatment). Collars recorded animal location every 5 min. Cows in the control treatment initially spent up to 40% of their time within the burned area, and forage utilization of the burned area was nearly 70%. Cows in the VF treatment spent approximately 4% of their time in the burned area on day 1 and were recorded in the burn only incidentally thereafter; forage utilization in the burn was < 3%. Our trial suggests VF technology is effective in controlling rangeland cattle movements and can severely curtail use of burned areas. Additional work is needed to evaluate VF technology in larger rangeland settings.