OSU virtual fencing research advancing with $1.4 million USDA grant - Oklahoma State UniversityOklahoma State University researchers are taking ...OSU virtual fencing research advancing with $1.4 million USDA grant - Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University researchers are taking their research on virtual fencing technology to the next level this fall thanks to a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“We’re looking at how managed grazing with virtual fencing can improve grazing distribution, pasture biodiversity and productivity, and wildlife and pollinator habitat,” said Ryan Reuter, professor of range beef cattle nutrition in the OSU Department of Animal and Food Sciences.
OSU researchers have spent the last year studying the grazing patterns of cattle through GPS-enabled collars as part of an $800,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant. The collars allow producers to not only see where their cattle are grazing, but also manage where they graze. The collars emit two stages of auditory ques before the final prompt of a small electrical stimulus.
A pilot project in 2019 introduced the technology to obtain initial results, Reuter said. Researchers observed where a group of cattle liked to congregate for two weeks before implementing a virtual fence and exclusion zone on that spot for about 10 days. The experiment resulted in a 99% success rate at keeping cattle out of that zone.
Through the EPA grant, Reuter’s team studied the grazing habits of cattle in riparian zones (areas bordering bodies of surface water). The GPS collars were put into place at two OSU research locations and one private ranch. Researchers hope to add a second private ranch to the project this fall. OSU’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management faculty have also been involved with the project.
“I am eager to see if the costs and the analytics prove this to be a viable tool for cow-calf producers,” said Clay Burtrum, owner of Burtrum Cattle, the private ranch participant. “Technology like this allows me to move my herd from wherever I am, and that could be very beneficial to producers, especially if they are like me and have a day job in town in addition to managing a cattle operation.”