New technologies continue their advancement into agricultural systems across the beef industry, with most focused on saving time, inputs and labor, while simultaneously gathering information and data, adding to traceability and reducing infrastructure needs.
Containing or moving cattle from one pasture to another is often a labor-intensive and expensive endeavor, with new fences to build or old ones to repair, maintain and upgrade. Additionally, electric variations need to be continuously rotated.
“Back when I was in high school my dad said it would be nice to have invisible fencing, not only for dogs but for cow-calf operations too,” says Jack Keating, owner of Corral Technologies. “It sounded like a good idea, but burying miles of wire didn’t excite me too much at the time.”
The concept stayed with Keating through his mechanical engineering studies, and he eventually brought it to fruition in August 2020, when he started his own virtual fencing company.
Corral Technologies uses a computer software system combined with solar-powered, GPS-enabled collars to contain cattle within a defined pasture perimeter or rotate them from one paddock to another. The basic setup consists of using satellite imagery and GPS coordinate points to draw pasture boundaries. Collars are fitted to the cows, tag numbers are entered and animals are assigned to the desired pastures.
“A top feature of our technology is it doesn’t just keep the herd within designated pastures but moves them from one to another,” Keating says. “It takes longer when traveling through complicated terrain and gates, but a straightforward route of a half mile usually lasts only a few hours.”
Containing or moving animals is sound- or shock-stimulation based. Collars feature left and right components, which distribute high-pitched beeping sounds that cause animals to instinctively turn in the opposite direction. GPS capabilities recognize which direction is faced and find the most optimal way to either turn cattle back into a pasture or move them toward a new paddock. A minor shock, similar to a dog collar shock, is given on the opposite side of the desired movement only if an animal continues to move away from a boundary or repeatedly travels in the wrong direction.
“Savings on infrastructure, labor and time are huge,” Keating says. “Other gains are increasing the number of females carried per acre, a reduction of rented land and more time spent utilizing grazing stubble instead of winter feeding.”
Current features include a heat mass display showing grazing area status, recordkeeping and an optional grazing plan. Additionally, Keating is developing health-related capabilities incorporating calving alerts, heat notifications and visits to water and salt sources for 2024 models.
Interest in Corral Technologies’ virtual fencing has been strong, and approximately 2,000 devices are currently being placed with new preorders accepted for 2024.
Moonsyst Smart Rumen Monitoring System
Beef producers want to remain in tune with the health and daily activities of their animals, not only for performance and profitability reasons but also for a genuine concern for their welfare. Often, these desires are hindered by a lack of experienced, knowledgeable workers and difficulty in understanding cattle behavior.
To assist with these issues, Hungarian company Moonsyst has developed a smart rumen bolus that gathers critical information and data from inside an animal, including health monitoring, water intake, calving and heat cycles, plus temperature and activity.
The individually identified boluses, powered by an encased, leak-free industrial strength battery and an accelerometer to monitor functions, are orally inserted into the reticulum using a regular bolus gun. Communication gateways run off SIM cards, so available cell service is key to the operation. An app alerts operators of elevated temperatures, unusual activity and drinking status.
“These notifications are prior to visual distress or sickness,” says Wyatt Cook, Moonsyst’s North American representative. “It also provides notice approximately six hours prior to calving or of cycling activity and opportune times for breeding.”
The boluses last for five or six years and are programmable to deliver prompts during calving or reproductive periods. Additionally, they use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to interpret alerts and provide guidance from pre-entered data and information.
The $100 boluses are popular with many North American seedstock breeders. Moonsyst is currently designing a separate smart bolus to be more cost-effective and practical for young calves and feedlot cattle.
“Traceability is a big concern for the consumer,” Cook says. “Rightly so. They want to know what they’re eating. As a producer myself, I also care about the health of my animals. It’s much better to alleviate events sooner than later when there’s a calving problem or an obviously sick animal needing an antibiotic.”
Te Pari Products
As data collection and information-gathering systems continue to build momentum throughout the industry, animal handling remains a constant fixture. Often, the two entities run separate courses. But New Zealand-based Te Pari Products is combining these elements for time and labor savings, plus accuracy and ease of use.
Te Pari recently released the Taurus, a laser beam- and sensor-equipped auto-sorting chute that can be seamlessly incorporated into existing handling tubs and alleyways. Entry and exit gates are automatically manipulated, holding cattle for electronic identification (EID) eartag recording and a weigh cycle. Data is uploaded to the cloud, and once a procedure is complete, the Taurus automatically releases the animal, while simultaneously operating a series of exit gates and resetting itself.
“It’s fully automatic, weighing and recording data points before sending them on their way,” says Kurt Chellberg, North American market manager for Te Pari. “Parameters are programmed to sort by EID tags, sex, breeds, colors or weight, and in yards with natural flow, a single worker could sort 200 to 300 head per hour.”
Incorporated machine learning and AI technology help with physical management and remove the guesswork by making accurate, traceable information and data available for making decisions.
Chellberg believes the system adds value to the traceability aspects that consumers demand.
“These technologies improve our transparency,” he says. “When we remove manual data recording from the equation and automate our processes, it’s much more consistent and accurate.”