My wife and I are getting cows on the property. We have an unused 8-acre pasture on the farm where the fence has fallen into disrepair. A local farmer is going to use that pasture to house one of his herds, and in exchange for using the land, he's been fixing the fence. (It also helps us because we'll no longer have to pay someone to bush-hog the fields.)
That pasture has about 2,500 feet of fence—nearly a half-mile. While not all of it is shot, it's a helluva lot of work and materials, and some of the farmer's repair work was damaged in a storm earlier this month. In addition to replacing damaged boards, every foot of the fence needs to be wired with barbed or electrical; if the herd escapes, the results can be disastrous.
Australian design consultancy Cobalt (we looked at their adjustable backpack frame here) has designed a wearable, no-fencing solution for cows, and it's more humane than using barbed wire or electrical fencing. Cobalt's ingenious eSheperd system, designed for agricultural technology company Agersens, is a wearable collar for cows:
It's got a solar charger up top, offset by a counterweight on the bottom. "The device emits a non-aversive audio cue (beep sound) when the cow approaches a virtual fence defined by the farmer. If the animal continues forward into the virtual fence the device follow up with an aversive electrical pulse (less than an electric fence but sufficiently uncomfortable). Cows quickly learn to stop or turn back on hearing the audio cue and avoid the electrical pulse." Additionally, the devices allow you to track the position of each cow via GPS.
There's no word on how much the units weigh, but assuming the cows can wear them comfortably and that they're affordable, the benefits could be enormous. Not having to maintain a fence—which carries ongoing costs of time, labor and materials—and being able to change grazing area at will, to compensate for under- or over-grazing, would be something every cattle farmer would be thrilled with.
The design team's description of the process highlights one of those strange things industrial designers find themselves doing in the course of business. "One of our quirkiest tasks was creating 'Angus,' our very own anatomically-correct bovine mannequin," they write. "Unlike human anthropometrics, there is next to no existing biometrics on bovine necks/heads, so we made our own full-size cow mannequin to test early concepts."
"Improving animal health and wellbeing is one of Agersens core criteria, so ensuring the fit and positioning of the eShepherd collar was always front of mind to ensure the collar could be worn safely and avoid injury."
Here's how it works:
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Here are the experiences of the eShepherd system from a cattle farming couple that has been trialing it for two years:
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There's no word on cost, as eShepherd isn't yet available for sale. I added my name to the waiting list for more information, for those of you who are dying to know.
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