This is a summary of the article “Video: Highland farm grazes cattle unfenced with GPS collars” by Michael Priestley of Farmers Weekly on October 7, 2021.Click to read the article in full or watch the video below.
Managing livestock on 3,000 ha of primarily unfenced upland grazing comes with some tough challenges for David Girvan of Corrimony Farm.
Located near Drumnadrochit, Inverness, the Highlands beef farmer could easily lose hours tracking down cattle from his 140 head of Stabiliser cows for routine checks and gathering.
With part of his grazing extending into the RSPB Corrimony wildlife reserve, there was also the constant worry of cattle damaging woodland in the nearby Caledonian Forest or overgrazing conservation areas.
Aside from that, there was also the challenge of effectively managing grazing on that amount of hectarage to ensure conservation goals were being met and grassland was being fully utilised.
With the purchase of 25 Nofence collars in 2020, these obstacles soon became manageable.
How Nofence works
Utilising the Nofence app, farmers can create virtual pastures anytime from anywhere. Once livestock are turned out on the set virtual pasture while wearing a Nofence collar, GPS and the mobile data network track the animal’s location and report back to the app, triggering the collar to cue an audio signal as the animal crosses the virtual fence boundary. If the animal continues to move forward, it will receive an electric pulse. This sequence of audio warnings, followed by a possible pulse, can happen three times. If the animal breaches the virtual boundary following the third audio cue, the farmers receive a pop-up notification via the Nofence app with the location of the animal as classed as escaped. Animals can return to pasture without receiving any audio warnings or pulses.
Using Nofence for conservation grazing at Corrimony Farm
Using in-bye ground, David sectioned off half of a field to train cattle how to respond to audio signals in relation to the virtual fence boundary. After a couple of days when the herd was no longer receiving pulses – showing they had been trained to the technology – David turned the group out onto an open grazing hill that was previously unmanageable due to lack of fencing.
The ability to manage grazing in open uplands has allowed the Girvan’s the ability to better manage grazing for the entire farm, with priority stock allocated in-bye group and cows making better utilisation of the rough uplands.
The Nofence app also can create exclusion zones, which can be drawn around saplings or regenerating woodland for conservation grazing efforts with the RSPB.
“Areas of ground in between the high hill and the in-bye ground are where cattle really make a difference,” David tells Farmers Weekly. “They can control bracken and open up the soil. The RSPB likes to graze ground for a year or two and then move on and rest it. Traditional fencing infrastructure is very expensive, so the collars offer a solution.”