Where have ewe moo-ved to? Trialling the use of tracking technology in extensive grazing systems

Grazing livestock on large extensive grasslands can pose many problems such as difficulties in gathering, grazing management and an increased chance of theft. With the aim of farming smarter and not harder a group of six farmers across Wales investigated how using tracking technology could help prevent these problems. Four of the farmers are sheep producers on the Brecon Beacons, and share common summer grazing up on the mountain. One farmer grazes the Kenfig coastal reserve near Margam, Port Talbot with cattle. The final farmer undertakes conservation grazing on land in North Wales. Livestock tracking technology is a new concept to extensive grazing animal systems in the UK and this project was the first of its kind here in Wales.

The technology used in this particular project is a single emitting device plus a battery, housed in a collar that lies around the animal’s neck. The collars communicate with a gateway (aerial) located in a area which has internet access and sends information to the farmers’ smart phones or devices. 

The data

The farmers were able to access the following information via an app on their smartphones:

  • GPS Location (Latitude, Longitude)
  • Activity Flags - alerting the farmer to a level of movement by the animal (possible theft)
  • Social Interactions - contact with other animals, which may be useful when considering parent to off-spring interactions, assessing mothering abilities of the collared female

Project Outcomes:

  • The technology allowed the farmers to know where their animals are in ‘real-time,’ what they are doing, and where their animals graze over a period of time.This can reduce gathering time and costs, minimise the risk of theft, help identify ill animals, and gain a better understanding of grazing habits.
  • The technology showed potential for livestock tracking to help both environmental bodies and land managers/graziers manage land for environmental benefits.
  • The cost of the equipment remains the biggest barrier to adoption. At the time of this project, the tracking collars from Digitanimal were £120 each.