Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Livestock wearing virtual fence collars

Virtual Fencing

Photo by: Andrew Antaya
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    Ranchers and land managers rely on thousands of miles of physical fence to manage livestock on rangelands. While permanent wire fence has led to improved rangeland condition in many places, wire fence provides little to no flexibility to rapidly change pasture size, manipulate grazing distribution, or avoid areas of high use or sensitive habitat within a pasture. As a result, there are constraints on the use of permanent fences as a tool for managing riparian health, post-fire vegetation recovery, or improving livestock distribution.

    Virtual fencing (VF) is an emerging precision livestock management technology that can be used to increase management flexibility. The system uses invisible barriers, established by Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates, to influence livestock movement with a combination of auditory and electrical cues.

    Foundations of VF

    • Virtual fencing (VF) is an emerging precision livestock management tool with multiple interconnected components.
      basics of a virtual fence system







    • [in review] Virtual fence lines are created in VF software, which requires a digital map of an entire ranch or land management area.
      diagram of virtual fence components
    • [in review] Understanding how livestock recognize and interpret the auditory and electrical cues can limit potential risks for animal health and welfare.
      how livestock interact with a virtual fence






    • [coming soon] Special consideration is needed when training livestock, designing fences, managing incentives, and moving livestock.

      incentive for livestock to cross the virtual fence






    • [in progress] Economic pros and cons of VF implementation to better understand the financial benefits and risks of the technology compared to tradition fencing. 
    • [in progress] Battery life, collar disposal, strategies for collection in the field, and data organization.
    •  [up next] Equipment needed, strategies for proper fit, and safety when placing virtual fence collars on livestock.



VF base station
Exploring the boundaries of virtual fencing


Workshop 1

cow being collared
Exploring the boundaries of VF: Comparing vendors & rancher insights


Workshop 2


cow with collar
Soil Health & Virtual Fencing
April 16, 2024 | Ranching Heritage Alliance | Eagar, AZ

Workshop 3