June 14, 2007 / 5:50 AM / 12 years ago

Australia scientists invent virtual fence for cows

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australian scientists have invented a virtual fence for cattle, doing away with the need to erect real barriers or keep gates closed to secure livestock.

A battery-powered collar around the neck of the cattle gives off a warning sound as they move within a meter or two of the virtual fence, which has been mapped using a computer linked to a satellite global positioning system.

If the livestock cross the virtual fence, they receive a mild electric shock and quickly learn the boundaries of their paddock.

“Signal timing and duration are based on the behavior of the cow and the animals can learn about a virtual fence for the first time in less than an hour and avoid the fence boundary,” said Caroline Lee, from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

“The cattle learn by associating the sound signal with their behavior of approaching the virtual fence boundary which is programmed into the collars,” Lee said in a statement.

The CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific body, said tests of the virtual fence were overseen by an independent animal welfare expert who found the cattle were not unduly stressed.

The CSIRO said it may take five to 10 years to produce a commercial version of the virtual fence.

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