Virtual Fencing Utilization on Wetland Reserve Easements

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2026
Grant Recipient: Maddalena Ranch
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Joe & Annie Tipton
Maddalena Ranch


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)
  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing management
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement

    Proposal summary:

    Maddalena Ranch has grazed on a piece of property currently owned
    by the Feather River Land Trust (FRLT) for approximately 80
    years. Our family owned 575 acres of the property, which was sold
    to FRLT in 2003. Since then, FRLT has entered into a Wetland
    Reserve Easement (WRE) on the property to meet their ecological
    and preservation goals. In doing so, it has become increasingly
    difficult to manage grazing on the property with the new easement
    regulations and fencing requirements. Currently, approximately
    five miles of high tensile/poly wire electric fence is built and
    removed EACH grazing season to keep cattle out of designated
    wetlands and off the Feather River. This requires hours of labor
    and little flexibility when weather conditions change. We believe
    that virtual fencing could be the sustainable and efficient
    answer to this issue. By facilitating more intensive grazing
    management, we will enhance other property sustainability goals
    such as invasive weed management, wildlife habitat and fire fuel
    loads. Our research question is: Can virtual fencing enhance the
    effectiveness of grazing management on wetland reserve easements?

    To answer this question, we will use a virtual fencing program
    and place electric collars on 100 head of cattle on the 1,200
    acre property for three grazing seasons. We will use the program
    to virtually move fences depending on the date requirements of
    the WRE and other sustainability objectives. Data and notes will
    be used to track the effectiveness of cattle retention, ease of
    software, and positives and negatives of the study.

    Potential outcomes will include: an understanding of new
    technology in our local ranching community which could lead to
    more successful and sustainable cattle grazing, improved targeted
    grazing management, ecological outcomes, and much more. We will
    disseminate our findings amongst producers at meetings, through
    UCCE, and via social media.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. To determine if virtual fencing is a feasible fencing option
      on wetland reserve easements to meet conservation goals and
      ranching economic viability. 
    2. To identify strengths and weaknesses of virtual fencing on
      wetland reserve easements, meeting monitoring terms and
    3. To acquire a solution that will allow for enhanced grazing
      management and sustainable agricultural practices on wetland
      reserve easements
    4. To collaborate with the local land trust to improve
      ecological outcomes and enhance livestock forage utilization.
    5. To pilot test a type of fencing that is new to our community.
    6. To share both positive and negative feedback with local
      ranchers and agricultural organizations to promote agricultural
      sustainability through a diversity of mechanisms, such as
      personal networks, social media, extension newsletters and
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.