Virtual fencing is technology that applies signals to control grazing livestock without using physical barriers. BIGG has had a long-standing interest in virtual fencing given its potential productivity and environmental benefits for graziers.
In 2019, BIGG assisted CSIRO to conduct South Australia’s first virtual fencing trial of cattle, on a beef grazing property at Eden Valley. In the trial, twenty Santa Gertrudis heifers were fitted with Agersens eShepherd® pre-commercial neckband prototype (pictured) which trained the cattle to respond to an audio cue as they approached a virtual fence line within a 14-ha wire-fenced paddock.
The trial was conducted over a 44-day period, with the virtual fence line being progressively shifted (on days 1, 4, 9 and 15) to prevent cattle from grazing an area of river red gum saplings within the paddock. By the end of the trial the cattle had been excluded from this area for 99.8% of the time, with no observed damage to the saplings.
This promising result demonstrates the potential of virtual fencing technology to deliver various NRM outcomes for graziers, including: keeping animals out of other environmentally sensitive areas (e.g. riparian zones, fragile soils), reduced overgrazing and erosion, and improved maintenance of groundcover and weed control.
CSIRO’s scientific publication of the full trial results can be found here.
BIGG also produced a 2-page case study of the trial results which can be found here.
Agersens eShepherd® virtual fencing system is yet to be commercialised.
The trial was supported by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board and the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landscape Program and the landscape levies, the Virtual Herding project through funding from the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit Program, and CSIRO.
Other virtual fencing resources
In June 2019, BIGG hosted a Grassland Society of Southern Australia/MLA Pasture Update at Mt McKenzie which featured the presentation:
- Development of a Virtual Fencing for Cattle– Dana Campbell and Caroline Lee, CSIRO
In March 2018, the Angaston Ag Bureau held a ‘livestock e-technology forum’ as part of its annual hogget competition. Two of the presentations were on virtual fencing:
- Using Virtual Fencing Technology to Better Manage Sheep– Danila Marinia, CSIRO
- E-Shepherd automated grazing control for cattle– Poppy McBain, Agersens