Virtual fencing: Cattle in collars studied at OSU for high-tech future of ranching


STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – Researchers at OSU are working on technology that could change the game for ranchers, using virtual fencing for cattle.

“That’s kind of a historical task of cowboys, to ride the range and check fence and that kind of thing,” said Ryan Reuter, with the OSU Department of Animal and Food Sciences. 

But over the years, technology has advanced in all fields, even literal ones. 

Now, OSU is working with a virtual fencing company named Vence to help advance it even further.

Some of the cattle owned by OSU are outfitted with collars similar to the ones dogs wear in yards with electric fences, but with a few differences.

“There’s no wire buried in the ground,” Reuter said. “There’s no physical infrastructure in the pasture. It gets instructions from the base station about where you want the cattle to stay and then the GPS chip in the collar tracks wherever the cattle go.”

Some of the cattle have been wearing the collars for more than a year. 

“When they get too close to a boundary, it beeps at the cattle and they learn really quickly that when that collar beeps, they need to turn around and go the other direction,” Reuter said. “If they don’t turn around, it does deliver an electronic stimulus to let them know the audio means we don’t want you to go into that part of the pasture.”

Ranchers are able to access their virtual fences via software.

It allows them to more easily manage their grazing land than with traditional fences that can be expensive to build and hard to move.

“Sometimes they’re not aesthetically pleasing in some environments where you would prefer not to have a fence,” said Reuter. “Especially if you want to do intensive management of grazing, where you need a lot of fences.”

This study is combining the work of the Animal Science Department as well as the water resources center – to benefit livestock and the ecosystem.

“That’s what excited me, the ability to implement all of these very intensive management practices without all the infrastructure and labor needed for all of the other conventional practices,” said Kevin Wagner, Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Center at OSU. 

Similar studies have been in the works since 1970s and ‘80s but technology has advanced so much, it’s now more affordable. 

Researchers at OSU are working on this with Vence – based out of California and say their work in Stillwater is just getting started. 

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