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UAVs valuable for livestock operationsUAVs valuable for livestock operations

Drones could help make scouting livestock herds and pastures easier.

August 17, 2023

2 Min Read
Two drones sit in the grass
QUITE THE VARIETY: UAVs are varied to match the job being done. These drones on display at Purdue’s Digital Ag Showcase can be used to spread pesticides or seed. Photos by Allison Lund

by Allison Lund

Drones make crop scouting easier and more efficient, but they also have applications for livestock producers. The Purdue College of Agriculture’s Digital Ag Showcase highlighted how drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, can be a useful tool in the livestock industry.

UAV applications for sheep, cattle and overall pasture management were explained at the event. Adam Shanks, Purdue Extension coordinator for digital ag, shared more about the following uses.

In sheep:

  • Observe animal traffic patterns.

  • Obtain a relatively accurate head count.

  • Check animal health.

  • Use for herding, potentially.

In beef:

  • Obtain a head count.

  • Observe demeanor or unusual behavior.

  • Observe bull activity.

  • Check animal health.

  • Read ID tags and take notes.

In pastures:

  • Reseed hard-to-reach areas.

  • Measure grazing patterns.

  • Inspect fencing.

  • Map out corral placement.

  • Assess storm damage.

These wide variety of tasks can be made easier by UAVs and can help producers cut back on the time it takes to complete these tasks.

“You can look at some things that would take you a couple hours to walk through,” Shanks said.

a drone flies in the sky with white buildings in the background

Shanks used the DJI Mavic 3 drone at the showcase as an example of a drone that could be used to complete livestock scouting tasks. Some drones have better image quality than others, so the type of drone a producer chooses should be suited to the tasks he or she plans to perform.

man pointing to large display monitor showing aerial view of research facility

This is just scratching the surface of drone potential in livestock operations, Shanks noted. For example, researchers are still figuring out how to best incorporate thermal imaging with UAVs.

For now, producers interested in UAVs could dabble in that area by starting with some of the mentioned tasks. They might just find it makes their lives easier, Shanks said.

Lund writes from West Lafayette, Ind.

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