Can virtual fencing be used to improve rangelands’ resilience to drought?: An Investigation by Young Ranchers in New Mexico

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $24,948.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2027
Host Institution Award ID: G244-24-WA507
Grant Recipient: Peterson Land and Cattle LLC
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Jaimi Peterson
Peterson Land and Cattle LLC


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial)
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    Rangelands of the western US
    sustain the livelihoods and communities of many ranchers and
    their families. They are, however, becoming increasingly
    difficult to manage given the prolonged drought most of the
    western US has experienced over the last decade. Such conditions
    constrain the rangelands’ ability to produce sustainable forage
    under conventional grazing management systems. We hope to
    mitigate these negative effects of drought on forage productivity
    by implementing the virtual fence technology. We believe that
    virtual fencing can be used to manage cattle in such a way that
    reduces the pressure on forage by allowing for more rest. If
    true, this could lead to greater forage resilience in a climate
    of ever prevalent drought. 


    Virtual fencing, however, is a
    relatively new technology with very few accounts of its
    effectiveness by ranchers. We, therefore, plan to not only
    experimentally use virtual fencing to potentially restore heavily
    grazed areas of our eastern New Mexico rangeland but also share
    our experiences with installing the infrastructure, learning the
    technology, training the cattle, and assessing rangeland health
    with our neighbors and other ranchers across the western US. This
    rancher-focused perspective is sorely needed when other ranchers
    are considering adopting a new, risky, and expensive - but
    potentially sustainable - management tool.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research objectives:

    1. Gain an in-depth understanding
      of the technology, software, and additional management
      from a young rancher’s
      , when using
      virtual fencing for adaptive cattle grazing on an eastern NM
    2. Test whether virtual fence
      technology can be used to implement a new cattle management
      system to provide rest to highly used areas, and increase
      forage production and drought resiliency.

    Education objectives:

    1. Develop outreach materials for
      other ranchers and agency managers that communicate the
      benefits, drawbacks, unforeseen expenses, and management
      decision points of using virtual fence technology to implement
      new cattle management systems, from a rancher’s point of


    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.