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 are investigating how using tracking technology can 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 is the first of its kind here in Wales.
A single emitting device plus a battery is housed in a collar that will be around the animal’s neck; these collars will ‘talk’ to a gateway box located in the area which has internet access and will send information to the farmers’ smart phones or devices.
The farmers will be 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
- The farmers will: Know where their animals are 'real-time'; Know what the animals are doing; Know where their animals graze over a period of time.
- This could potentially reduce gathering time and costs, minimise the risk of theft, help identify ill animals, and gain a better understanding of grazing habits.
- The project will assess what % of a flock is recommended to be ‘collared’, in order to get useful data.