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Virtual fencing could be beef industry game-changer

Much like autosteer and precision farming, virtual fencing is a new technology that could positively impact the productivity of operations.

Sierra Day

November 17, 2021

3 Min Read
cow in pasture at sunset
FENCED IN: Virtual fencing is a new technology in the beef world that could have an industry-changing impact.Sierra Day

Historically, the crew at Jorgensen Land and Cattle had not been able to graze cattle on some portions of pasture that contained areas such as food plots. Physically fencing off these small and irregularly shaped, non-grazeable acres was not feasible.

But then they discovered virtual fencing produced by Vence.

“When you think of agronomy, you think of autosteer and precision farming and how much that has changed the farming practice,” says Cody Jorgensen, chief livestock operations officer at Jorgensen Land and Cattle near Ideal, S.D. “Well, I think that this potentially is as significant in the beef world.”

The system consists of individual collars for each animal, a receiver and a corresponding computer software program, he says. Each grazing animal wears a neck collar that correlates with an identification number in the software program. From there, the software can detect where the animal is and track movements throughout the day.

But where does the virtual part come in?

The computer software allows beef producers to use a digital map to trace the boundaries in which they want cattle to stay within, Jorgensen says. That information is relayed to the receiver and then to the collars, which generates a harmless shock to any collar on a cow that steps outside of the virtual fence.

For Jorgensen Land and Cattle, the system helps them make better use of their land.

The operation consists of 800 acres that has not been able to be physically fenced off and grazed. Plus, part of an additional acreage has a hunting lodge and food plots, where they don’t want cattle to graze. Virtual fencing makes it possible for them to have cattle graze some acres but not others.

However, this new technology can do more than keep cows out of undesired areas, Jorgensen says. The program can also be used to keep cattle in an area. He suggests placing the virtual fence lines along an already existing physical fence, even if old and worn down. While it is not necessary, this could prevent any cattle getting out in case the system develops a technological glitch.

So, how does the system pencil out?

When figuring costs for the system, producers should think about the base station receiver, software, power setup and collar costs, Jorgensen says. Producers will need to buy the base station, but they can rent collars from Vence. The company also offers a solar-powered base station for remote locations.

The cost breakdown is as follows:

  • $30 per collar rented, annually

  • $11,000 for a solar-powered base station

  • $3,000 for a hardwired base station

His family has done the math and found that the cost of the virtual fence system is $50 per collar. And based on their calculations, this is similar to the per-head cost of building and maintaining an electric or wooden fence, regardless of miles of fence built.

He says the battery life of the collars is typically six months. Neck collars can be interchanged between animals, but make sure the software knows when you move the collar to a different animal. This can be a cost-effective option for operations not grazing all cattle at the same time.

“This is the future,” Jorgensen says. “I think it’s going to be game-changing, especially when you’re looking at land utilization.”

About the Author(s)

Sierra Day

Field editor, Farm Progress

A 10th-generation agriculturist, Sierra Day grew up alongside the Angus cattle, corn and soybeans on her family’s operation in Cerro Gordo, Ill. Although she spent an equal amount in farm machinery as she did in the cattle barn as a child, Day developed a bigger passion for the cattle side of the things.

An active member of organizations such as 4-H, FFA and the National Junior Angus Association, she was able to show Angus cattle on the local, state and national levels while participating in contests and leadership opportunities that were presented through these programs.

As Day got older, she began to understand the importance of transitioning from a member to a mentor for other youth in the industry. Thus, her professional and career focus is centered around educating agriculture producers and youth to aid in prospering the agriculture industry.

In 2018, she received her associate degree from Lake Land College, where her time was spent as an active member in clubs such as Ag Transfer club and PAS. A December 2020 graduate of Kansas State University in Animal Sciences & Industry and Agricultural Communications & Journalism, Day was active in Block & Bridle and Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow, while also serving as a communications student worker in the animal science department.

Day currently resides back home where she owns and operates Day Cattle Farm with her younger brother, Chayton. The duo strives to raise functional cattle that are show ring quality and a solid foundation for building anyone’s herd.

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