USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has granted a license to a Canadian firm interested in marketing a non-wire, virtual fencing technology linked to the global positioning system.

The Directional Virtual Fencing (DVF) system would send electronic cues to a bovine’s ears to move it in a preferred direction for balanced grazing, says Dean M. Anderson, ARS animal scientist at the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, NM. Such a system would be particularly applicable to ranches with vast open spaces that make controlling a herd’s movements challenging.

ARS is granting the license exclusively to Krimar of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

An ARS release says the system would track GPS-fitted cows and send auditory signals, such as a human voice, to steer a moving animal without inflicting physical harm. The signal volume can be raised or lowered, Anderson says, and the commands can vary from familiar “gathering songs” sung by cowboys during manual round-ups to sirens designed to get cows to move or avoid entering forbidden areas.

The system is automated so ranchers can give cues at any time and track movements from a computer.

ARS has patented the technology based on experimental designs. Anderson is currently working on a commercially viable prototype that features a stereo headset around each ear.

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