Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Workshop 1

Exploring the Boundaries of Virtual Fencing

Date: August 10, 2023 

Where: AZSRM Summer Meeting, Ten-X Campground, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 

Workshop Summary:

Virtual fencing (VF) is currently a hot topic in rangeland management. This emerging precision livestock management technology has the potential to revolutionize grazing systems by allowing dynamic control of livestock distribution and duration while also reducing the cost of wire fence replacement. According to the VF companies, all a rancher or land manager needs to do is buy a bunch of technology, put some necklaces on cows, and start managing cattle. Right? Wrong. Very wrong. Virtual fencing is significantly more complicated.

With support from Arizona Experiment Station and the Marley Foundation for Sustainable Rangeland Stewardship, in cooperation with the Santa Rita Ranch LLC, The University of Arizona conducted a pilot study at the Santa Rita Experimental Range to assess basic product function and utility on Arizona rangelands. Over the last three years, we learned a lot and have created a full day workshop to share that knowledge with you.

At the AZSRM summer meeting at the Ten-X Campground, we will move beyond the basics of VF and demonstrate the actual components of a VF system. Participants will learn about the VF software where all tasks associated with implementing a VF system are completed. A mobile radio base station will be on hand for a live demonstration about the importance of proper placement to maximize base station coverage. The art and science of collaring livestock will also be discussed and demonstrated. Finally, we will cover aspects of animal welfare, potential policy implications, and the next steps for VF research in Arizona.

There is a lot to know about VF and we want to share our lessons learned with you. Virtual fencing is exciting, new, and has a lot of potential—and risk. We hope this workshop empowers you to effectively evaluate VF for sustainable rangeland management.

This work is supported by USDA NIFA Western SARE (project number WPDP22-016), AFRI IDEAS (award no. 2022-10726), the Arizona Experiment Station, and the Marley Endowment for Sustainable Rangeland Stewardship.

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