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GPS shock collars for fenceless grazing

 
Morgan Morrigan
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the end of the cowboy, the rise of the robot.
Would be sweet to be able to look out over the range with your google glasses and set the new virtual fence lines up tho....

http://v-e-n-u-e.com/Invisible-Fences-An-Interview-with-Dean-Anderson

http://news.techeye.net/science/gps-cow-tags-to-make-cowboys-obsolete
 
nathan luedtke
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WHOA I just saw this. I think tech like this could be HUGE for Holistic Management. One cowboy could manage 10-100 times as many head with a system like this. Massively Scaled Mob Grazing. Super-detailed grazing plans. Paddock Shift Protocol.
 
Tom Kozak
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Uh... very scary! like you say "end of the cowboy."
and "One cowboy could manage 10-100 times as many head" what about the 10 other cowboys who just became redundant? Call me a luddite but ...
 
Jay Green
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I see a great potential for this kind of system...I've been using the wireless fencing for my dogs for years. But, I also see a greater disconnect with the actual land and livestock than already exists. Can we get any further from our actual food source? Cattle are already just a number, if that, but to make them a mere dot on a satellite image is even worse.

What happens to our food usually happens to us, so be prepared for prisons without fences, controlled human movement to "prevent" many current problems in society~like violence in schools, cars that we cannot self direct but will be controlled on certain traffic patterns via satellite and other such cheesy sci fi nightmares.

Sometimes, to get to the end, one must start back at the beginning and see where we went astray on this path...not convert to satellites and computers to compound the problem. I feel the only way this Earth and the inhabitants will ever be normal is to go back to a more primitive culture and lifestyle.
 
Abe Connally
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when you consider the cost to infrastructure (fencing, water, etc) to switch to mob grazing, holistic grazing and other beneficial methods, this sort of thing really makes sense. Especially in places like Mexico, Africa, Australia, where people with little resources manage enormous amounts of land and small numbers of animals...

Just on a small scale (10 acres), to do mob grazing on my hill, I'm looking at thousands of dollars in infrastructure, mainly fencing and water. what 3rd world rancher can afford to do that on thousands of acres?

While you say it may make the cowboy extinct, there are not many cowboys like their used to be, anyway. They are not herding the cattle, they let them free range within huge paddocks.

The only cowboying going on is when it is time to wean, doctor or cull.
 
Saybian Morgan
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the cowboys to the extent it was a real occupational choice at some point in history helped wipe out the resources we permies work to put back. If it isn't about predator control and it just about being able to design foraging paddocks within a forest, i could see this work miraculously for pigs. Imagine being able to keep them on a forested slope and not on the swales to damage your food and forest crops. Yeah I can lug electric fence through bush and do allot of machete maintenance at each controlled area, or I could invest in each animal and be able to put up barriers straight through vegetation. This isn't about being handy and putting our feet up, it's about allowing more of us to work on a scale that can actually feed the world without making us slaves to it. In the hands of us as designers many things that were out of our individual reach can become possible. I know I'd like to be managing cow's intensively while gardening, our minds our bigger and more capable than our backs so why not let us see what our full potential is.
 
Chris Kott
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There's a thread on shock collars and either pigs or goats in either the pigs or goats forum. Some of the feedback included the observation that you would need a shock induced in front of where the pig is looking, because you need to discourage the specific action of going forward. It was thought that if you shock them behind the head somewhere, it would cause them to go forward. Also, there was the observation that the visual cues of strange-coloured fencing becomes useful in itself as a reminder of the danger of shock, and that shock collars have no visual cue corresponding to it. I made the observation there that something like a sonic cue (like a whistle that starts a set distance from a boundary and increases in pitch and volume, or some similar small, intermittent cue) that the animals could use to deliberately avoid shock while grazing to the extent of the space provided.
But I agree with the concept in principal. I'd love to just set my computerised, shock collar-controlled grazing plan and come back at culling time.

-CK
 
Tom Kozak
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What Saybian Morgan says about using this technology in the forest makes sense, I hate running electric fence through forest.
It also true that sometimes our brains are more capable than our backs but, maybe that's as it should be.

Human backs and hand tools can only do so much damage, but can also only produce so much food. So we invented the plow.
Now the farmers could be fewer and farther between, less people could produce more food. Still not enough though, so we invented the tractor.
Now the farmers are very few and very far between just a handful can produce lots of food using the powers of scale and industry, but ... we all know the problems.
History is full of examples like this.

Most of us would not be alive were it not for these events, I wouldn't, and millions would starve if we went back to the technology of backs and hand tools. We cant return to the past, but we can learn from it. The economies of scale are false economies, they look good, they work well at first, but at what cost? When we went from plows to tractors few people if any had an inkling what the consequences would be. The same with this technology, it looks good, it could work well but it is an economy of scale, it offers the power of industry to agriculture and that, as we all have seen, is dangerous.
 
Tom Kozak
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besides, don't we all like an excuse to get out and walk the rangeland?
 
Abe Connally
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Tom Kozak wrote:besides, don't we all like an excuse to get out and walk the rangeland?


#firstworldproblem
 
Tom Kozak
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Chris Kott
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Tom, we're talking about an innovative use of off-the-shelf technologies that will enable people to better manage complex grazing patterns and go from overgrazing to using ruminants to build soil fertility. And your contribution is to somehow link it to inappropriate technological escalation and flawed economic theory. This has more to do with using what we have to exert more control over potentially harmful systems. This type of development could make it possible for many types of paddock shift pasturage to supplant factory farm setups, resulting in healthier animals and land. Not to mention enabling homesteaders who otherwise wouldn't have the ability to keep cattle at all, or not with such control over how much time each paddock gets to rest between grazing.

So I'll end with a question, Tom: how, exactly, does managing grazing with perfect control on any scale, from two to thousands of head, result in the downfall of civilisation?

-CK
 
Saybian Morgan
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The subject of running forward and visual barriers is true, so why couldn't I run a fake barrier of colored cable in congruence with my virtual barrier. I like that at no point do we get away with not thinking even when a solution seems to apparently solve it all. Any technology can be used to build or destroy how we see it in the world is just a reflection of how many people choose the lesser. If we get sloppy at 2 head or 2000 head where going down a bad road but that's on the person not on the technology which is neutral.

But back to debugging this solution as truly viable, my problem with electric is the bloody maintenance and chasing energy sinks. I have no problem running fake yellow tape that can wrap around tree and follow my set barrier patterns. Does anyone who would love to stop pigs at the edge of sweet potatoes mind running fake rope they don't have to maintain? I'm game and I'm not abandoning electric but using it to keep things out rather than manage within. Let's keep the debate to how could we innovatively use our pattern eye to take this way beyond escaping fencing labor and into high capacity soil building within a permanent agriculture. If we all could do a little bit of everything we would never be faced with one man running rampant on a theme or there not being enough farmers to produce for our species.
 
Tom Kozak
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Woa! Sorry, no offence was meant.
 
Chris Kott
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Oh, I'm not offended. Sorry, my tone doesn't translate well into writing. But I do sometimes allow myself to become irritated over points of logical fallacy or semantics, which can only sometimes be useful.

I find your observations about what has happened with agriculture valid, but as with all things, to an extent. I think the clear difference that separates the subject of the thread title with the descent into destructive agricultural practices that you describe is that the technological shift towards big machines went to support monocultures and all they imply (sterilisation of the land, you have to put in all your own nutrient resources, all the bad stuff), whereas GPS tracking of individual head of cattle and shock collars is a big step towards making mob grazing with grazing plans that are specifically designed to maximise soil building and overall system health. Not to mention one of the most important differences: scale, or rather, scalability. Giant machines necessitate monocrops, flattening of the land, among other measures, to accommodate the machines. You can't do small. With this idea, however, you can imagine a system that uses modular GPS and shock components working with a central transmitter (or perhaps even a mobile shed-based transmitter), so small operators could buy two, or ten, or 50, or whatever, right up to the scale of thousands of head on thousands of acres.

I think jumping to conclusions and thinking the absolute worst of people and their ideas is one of the most common ways of dampening human innovation and intelligence, which are two of the only tools we have to elevate us over semi-sentient beings, and the only way out of many of the problems we've made for ourselves. I think the solution is to find brilliant ideas like this one that can make regenerative farming practices more financially feasible.

-CK
 
jonathan white
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I cannot equate using an electrified perimeter with using an electrified collar as a means of control. With a fence you are setting parameters and aligning those parameters with visual cues which will be learned and eventually lead to understanding and less stress. If you are using electric current (or sonic) to constantly manipulate without some sort of understanding by the animal I am certain you will end up with over stressed and maladjusted livestock. All creatures benefit from the presence of warm, firm attention. I just think that a collar with no other cues creates a constant guessing game.

Forgive my poor structure. I'm a little drunk and in a bath. Typing with my thumbs.
 
jonathan white
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I won't be surprised when some industrial ag giant buys the patent to this technology and starts leasing it to its slaves. Mr Anderson will never have to work again. A man after Paul Wheaton's heart? No offense, Paul. I love Permies.com Thank you.
 
jonathan white
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How many cows does someone need that they want to manage them with computers? That seems like the logic of greedy folk. If there's anything I loathe it's buying food from greed heads. I prefer to steal it. (Oops!) now all I have to do is figure out how to build my own conduit to the Internet. But you know what? I'll probably never stop buying Camels. I'm such a hypocrite.
 
Chris Kott
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A good reason to not post while drunk. It helps to read the previous posts properly, too. Try, if you will, to put yourself in the shoes of one of two working people on a family homestead, where this kind of thing might let you have grazing cattle, where otherwise the cost of fencing might prove prohibitive.

The sonic cue I suggested was intended as a pavlovian conditioning, whereby the cattle learn that when the sound kicks in, it's time to move in another direction until the sound goes away.

Thinking about it, where this would likely see great success is in collaboration with conservation efforts to remove fences and other man-made blockages to the movement of wildlife, specifically bison, while still grazing it.

I'd like to see this kind of thing successfully applied to pigs, as potentially one of the most destructive livestock in the event of escape, but I don't see any way to dissuade them from proceeding forward than to put the shock on the end of their noses. I don't know that there's a practical solution to that one. Will it work on goats, I wonder?

-CK
 
jonathan white
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I fully maintain all of my previous statements except for the one indicating a possibility of poor structure, regardless of the cause, as my first post in this thread adequately reflects my opinion.

I believe that few people attempting to manage more than naturally possible is counterproductive. Any glitch in the system is potentially catastrophic. Yes, networks and software programming can be utilized in an attempt to prevent these failures and could eventually be successful. But at what cost?

As an outdoors person and lover of all of the natural world (and some weird shit too) I am very interested in rapid restoration of our planet as it is certainly still being abused. If we, as citizens of earth, want to see improvement I believe that it will be most widely realized through communities that foster good stewardship of our home. That means not taking on more than you can handle, learning and understanding the biological systems and recognizing the variables influencing those systems. If we want to make bigger improvements we're gonna need more help.

I know that nature keeps her promises and any work sensibly put into the ground will be rewarded with reasonable yields.

Mmmm....bloodymary's... So much temptation in this damned city
 
Chris Kott
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I can't find a thing to disagree with in this post. I don't agree with your conclusion that this kind of system control constitutes too much. I think that anything that can take the cattle industry from factory farming and feedlots up to the fetlocks in fresh manure (you know, deep culture without the culture) to a place where the animals are living closer to a natural bovine existence, and in systems that require less inputs, I think merit more discussion as to the particulars and less abject dismissal without appropriate reasons. Also, if this works out for homesteaders, more small operations would produce their own meat and dairy, perhaps leading to greater food security and fewer profits for profit-motivated corporations who might not have the animals' or customers' best interests at heart.

-CK
 
jonathan white
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We all have our opinions and they're a result of multitudes of personal experiences. I am so thankful for that. Ain't that America. I hope I didn't offend anybody. I appreciate technology. Modern medicine saved the lives of my mother and my son. He's never lived in a world without Internet. He rides his fourwheeler around our farm with his 10-22, a spotting scope and an iPhone. That's all well and good. But, our operation will not cease due to a failure of infrastructure such as communication breakdown..i.e. loss of signal.
 
Chris Kott
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Personally, the GPS part isn't a dealbreaker for me. I think the collars would prove useful for fenceless paddock shift grazing even if you had to move the transmitter. I think the system would be more resilient with a transmitter and solar charger built into a mobile cattle shed. I think that if this idea was applied to almost any scale of dairy operation, it would enable cows that otherwise need to stay close to where they're milked twice a day to graze more, reducing overstocking-related disease and feed costs. They'd be able to roam even further if the milking parlour was mobile as well, but that might pose problems with larger-scale operations.

I am not suggesting that we hand control over to computers so we can sit watching reality TV (the only good thing I have to say about reality TV is that it gets me out of the house more). All I'm saying is that if we could shift some of the load of supervision off of the homesteaders, they would have time to do more, which in some cases could mean the difference between paying the mortgage and a foreclosure, or eating well and starving.

Or what if this type of system were used by a co-op of homesteaders on a piece of co-op owned land on a herd of cattle owned by the co-op? You wouldn't even need the internet, just bluetooth or a local intranet wifi, with everything running off solar. You could easily run meat and dairy herds side by side for sake of ease of access and safety, without running the risk of unintentional breeding. Most of all, the monitoring of the system suddenly becomes a thing that a sedentary individual, the aged or women in late-stage pregnancy, for instance, can do, freeing up the able-bodied for other work, and giving someone who might otherwise bemoan their own uselessness an important job that they can do without risk to personal health and safety. Also, I don't know how many herders would normally be needed per how many head of cattle, but we're also talking about turning a job for multiple people into a job for one, and that something that can be monitored while doing other watching and tending jobs.

I agree with your observation about the potential frailty of a system that depends on the internet to maintain its operation, but I think that there are many advantages to such a system beyond doing away with lots of fencing and serving a "set-it-and-forget-it" mentality (perhaps we should call it a Ronco mentality?).

-CK
 
                        
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Is everyone going to put a collar on the predators too?
 
Chris Kott
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You'd probably have to deal with predators conventionally. But conventional fences don't do much that way anyway, where there's real predation pressure. Electric fencing is an obvious option, but requires constant movement or widescale implementation to do anything but pen cattle in. Were I using this system, I suppose I would get three Great Pyrenees to stay with the herd.

If you look for a single panacea for all ills, you'll be looking a very long time.

-CK
 
Lm McWilliams
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Abe Connally wrote:when you consider the cost to infrastructure (fencing, water, etc) to switch to mob grazing, holistic grazing and other beneficial methods, this sort of thing really makes sense. Especially in places like Mexico, Africa, Australia, where people with little resources manage enormous amounts of land and small numbers of animals...

Just on a small scale (10 acres), to do mob grazing on my hill, I'm looking at thousands of dollars in infrastructure, mainly fencing and water. what 3rd world rancher can afford to do that on thousands of acres?

While you say it may make the cowboy extinct, there are not many cowboys like their used to be, anyway. They are not herding the cattle, they let them free range within huge paddocks.

The only cowboying going on is when it is time to wean, doctor or cull.


While, as others have commented, 'an excuse to walk the range', (or ride one of those self-maintaining, self-replacing,
auto-fertilizing, solar-powered vehicles), or walking the fenceline in non-range situations, may be 'a first world problem'...

... a lack of labor is definately a first-world problem. (Actually, the lack of labor may not be the issue, but accessing the
latent labor pool is a big problem, at least for most ag enterprises, especially operations with smaller budgets and less
appetite for red tape.

Most third-world countries have abundant labor.

Allan Savory of Holistic Management Int'l has lots of experience with mob grazing on large land tracts. He is a native
of Africa himself (though not indigenous ['native' means where you were born, not where your ancestors were from]),
and has organized herders in Africa, with a positive impact on the quality of these people's lives.

 
Xisca Nicolas
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About the ways to use this technology that I know about...
Chris Kott wrote:you would need a shock induced in front of where the pig is looking, because you need to discourage the specific action of going forward. It was thought that if you shock them behind the head somewhere, it would cause them to go forward. Also, there was the observation that the visual cues of strange-coloured fencing becomes useful in itself as a reminder of the danger of shock, and that shock collars have no visual cue corresponding to it.
I made the observation there that something like a sonic cue (like a whistle that starts a set distance from a boundary and increases in pitch and volume, or some similar small, intermittent cue) that the animals could use to deliberately avoid shock while grazing to the extent of the space provided.
But I agree with the concept in principal. I'd love to just set my computerised, shock collar-controlled grazing plan and come back at culling time.

jonathan white wrote:With a fence you are setting parameters and aligning those parameters with visual cues which will be learned and eventually lead to understanding and less stress. If you are using electric current to constantly manipulate without some sort of understanding by the animal I am certain you will end up with over stressed and maladjusted livestock.
I just think that a collar with no other cues creates a constant guessing game.


1st, a shock is a punishment, thus a way to discourage. Very important, this is not a way to teach. You teach only by reinforcement techniques. Any punishment is meant to discourage, diminish or get rid of a behaviour, not to create a behaviour.

Then, it is absolutely necessary to give the animal a way to AVOID the punishment by stopping the current behaviour. They must also relate their behaviour to the warning followed by the punishment.

3rd, in the teaching, what do you do if the punishment stops with an unwanted behaviour, or if the animal does not find easily how to make the punishment stop?

Yes, the reflex is to go to the opposite of the "bad event". With dogs this is easy, you can teach with a lead that prevents going where you do not want the dog to go... Also with electric fences, you need to hold back the animal at the beginning. What if there is a shock, but an escape forward through the broken net and then freedom?

It is necessary to control the behaviours during the learning period, and create the right behaviour up to the point that the animal will never any more be shocked, thanks to his ability to test behaviours through a visual or audio signal, and find out which maintain safety.
 
Chris Kott
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I think we're complicating things over much. Animal approaches boundary, collar whistle starts. Animal keeps going, whistle gets louder and more shrill. Halfway to boundary, the sound changes, like gets a uncomfortable persistent beep. A few feet from the boundary, a hot electric pop reminiscent of the electric fences they would be familiar with from more conventional paddocks where they are kept while too young to go very far. They put two and two together and learn to turn around when they hear the first noise, and perhaps will eventually push it to the second sound boundary, but never further, or they get a hell of a shock.

But I agree that you need supplementary warnings, something to make them wary and give warning that they are about to be shocked, like the bright wires on conventional electric fences.

-CK
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I know about too many mistakes in training animals, and it results in stress and insecurity. Also, you do not talk about young animals that do not know another system ("reminiscent of the electric fences they would be familiar with ").

If the animals do not see any electric fence, nothing,
and more over if the boundaries move because of quick rotations,
then the system must be fully understood, for a good organization.
Understanding the principles of a technique is necessary to adapt oneself to the circumstances instead of applying a mere recipe.

I can see a problem with the sound system: the animals will not graze up to the boundary if they also want to avoid the sound. Or else you must decide that the limit you establish is when the sound starts. Then some animals might stand some noise more than others. So you need to don't mind up to where it is grazed...

I have no idea if this can happen, but why not: an animal can decide that he sees nothing ahead, and run ahead. When he will be over the limit on the other side, the punishment will stop. I mean that a physical barrier is useful to begin the training.
 
Chris Kott
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As to animals escaping, you assume that the shock and noise stops once they clear the boundary. I would wonder, especially in cases where, as with pigs, an escape could mean liability for neighbouring property damage, if it would be possible to shock them with a taser-like current that would physically stop them without causing actual damage. Much better that than an animal ignoring the warnings and causing serious injury or death due to prolonged contact.

As to the handling and training of young, they would need to be raised at least to juvenilehood before trying them on the GPS system, and there's no reason the same sonic warning system can't be used in conjunction with a standard electric fence. You would just need to make the collars modular so that you can use the sonic system independantly of the shocker.

-CK
 
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