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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #402186

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Training beef cattle to use virtual fence systems

item NYAMURYEKUNG'E, S - New Mexico State University
item COX, A - New Mexico State University
item PEREA, A - New Mexico State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item CIBILS, A - New Mexico State University
item HOLLAND, J - Sruc-Scotland'S Rural College
item WATERHOUSE, T - Sruc-Scotland'S Rural College
item DUFF, G - New Mexico State University
item FUNK, M - New Mexico State University
item ANEY, SKYE - New Mexico State University
item MCINTOSH, M - New Mexico State University
item Spiegal, Sheri
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon
item UTSUMI, S - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/15/2022
Publication Date: 5/21/2023
Citation: Nyamuryekung'E, S., Cox, A., Perea, A., Estell, R.E., Cibils, A.F., Holland, J., Waterhouse, T., Duff, G.C., Funk, M., Aney, S., McIntosh, M.M., Spiegal, S.A., Bestelmeyer, B.T., Utsumi, S.A. 2023. Training Beef Cattle To Use Virtual Fence Systems. 2nd U.S. Precision Livestock Farming Conference. Proceedings.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Virtual fencing (VF) is an alternative method to control livestock dispersal. This method consists of the use of animal wearable collars that employ auditory-electric pulse cues to deter animals from exiting their predefined containment zones. Despite promising applications of VF for Precision Livestock Farming, there is limited information on best practices to train groups of cattle to VF configurations effectively. The study aimed to document skin defense (SkinM) and association learning mechanism (AssocM) in describing the conditioning behavior of the VF application. Nursing Brangus cows at the New Mexico State University's Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center were allotted three days of free access to feeding areas (0.19 ha) with VF-deactivated (VF-Off) collars or VF-Activated (VF-On) collars restricting one-third of the penned area. This training sequence was repeated twice (6-day per Period) with two replications (n = 11 and 17 cows, respectively). The VF collars communicated real-time animal positions at 15-minute intervals. ANOVA was used to compare daily-derived variables per cattle on the percentage of time spent within the containment and restricted zones (SkinM) and the number of auditory cues and electric pulses emitted during the VF-On configurations (AssocM). The VF-On treatment increased the percentage of time collared animals spent within the containment zone (98.4 vs.72.0 ±1.0 %Time; P<0.01) and reduced the percentage of time within the restricted zone (1.6 vs.28.0 ±1.0 %Time; P<0.01) compared to the VF-Off treatment. Exposure to VF-On in Period 1 triggered a greater frequency of auditory (1.8 vs. 0.6 ±0.4; P<0.01) and electrical pulses (0.7 vs.0.2 ±0.2; P<0.01) than in Period 2. Results indicate that groups of cows learn rapidly to respond to VF boundaries by reducing the time spent within the restricted areas (SkinM), minimizing the frequency of cueing, and relying increasingly on auditory cues to alter behavior (AssocM).