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Virtual Fences for Cattle Find a Home on the Range

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Cattle wearing electric collars.

Virtual fences with electronic collars were patented for dogs in the 1970s. Livestock versions were first manufactured in the U.S. in the 1980s, but technology advances are making them more accessible to ranchers.

Credit: Elise Kirk/The Wall Street Journal

Cattle ranchers increasingly have access to virtual fences that allow them to determine their land’s boundaries on a computer and use electronic collars to keep their cows from wandering away from it.

San Diego-based Vence expects to deploy more than 75,000 of the electric collars, which emit warning beeps followed by a shock if the cow crosses the virtual fence, by the end of the year.

The collars are being used at the Mushrush Ranch near Kansas City, MO, as part of a test of fenceless grazing on the Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve.

The virtual fences cost just $50 per collar per year in rental and battery fees, plus $12,500 per base station; a traditional fence can cost upwards of $15,000 per mile for installation and maintenance.

From The Wall Street Journal
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