Evaluating virtual fences for cattle in regards to water resources, forage management, invasive weed control, and wildlife systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2022: $249,999.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Kansas State University
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Jaymelynn Farney
Kansas State University


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: grazing management, watering systems
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Natural Resources/Environment: grass waterways, riparian buffers, riverbank protection

    Proposal abstract:

    Determine feasibility of virtual fences on cattle operations to reduce labor costs and improve/sustain water and pasture resources with flexible grazing management. A new technology that is becoming available for cattle producers that can help with a wide range of environmental, ecosystem, and economic decisions on their operation is virtual fences.  Many production practices that improve ecosystem and natural resource management are not implemented in production because of lack of capital, labor, topography concerns, and an ever-changing environment.  We propose to test virtual fences on cattle operations for a variety of established natural resource management systems.  Four research projects will be conducted while also determining the viability of the technology in a hilly, hard-wood terrain.  Study 1: Evaluating virtual fences to develop point-specific watering sources within riparian areas or around ponds.  We propose to test the effectiveness of virtual fences to improve/maintain high quality water and maintain bank integrity by implementing limited access watering sources. Study 2: Utilizing virtual fences to implement ultra-high stocking on areas of pastures infested with the noxious plant Serecia lespedeza.  This novel management practice will be compared to traditional management practice of herbicide treatment, a negative control with no mitigation, and a new practice of fall-burning pasture.  Study 3: Evaluate the use of virtual fences to manage stocking rate and grazing pressure in songbird nesting habitats develop cohesive grazing and wildlife management operations.  Study 4: Evaluate the use of virtual fences to aid in removal of livestock from croplands during periods of high moisture.  This study will also evaluate the effects of grazing through the high-moisture events and no grazing of the cropland on subsequent crop production.  The information attained through these projects will be made available to three main audiences – scientific community, livestock and land-manager audiences, and government agencies.  Outreach efforts for all three groups will include peer-review journal articles, presentations at professional meetings, field days, portable virtual fence demonstration, popular press articles, media interviews, podcasts, and highlights through social media platforms.  A working group with government agencies to discuss feasibility of virtual fences as a cost-share program will be conducted along with special tours for these groups.  Assuming the virtual fence technology works, there are potentially limitless opportunities for producers to be able to manage their resources to the micro-degree while enhancing quality of life for the producer, area, and will provide much needed quick adaptability to a rapidly changing environment.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Overall objective: utilize technology to incorporate management practices that improve natural resource in constantly changing environments or hard to manage areas.
    • Sub-objectives: 1) manage for water resources/ponds; 2) improve habitat for wildlife species of concern; 3) improve pasture management via production and/or invasive weed control; and 4) fencing assistance in integrated cattle-cropping systems.
    • Action outcomes: technology will lead to use of strategic grazing systems that have been proven to enhance natural resources, but have not been incorporated due to lack of labor, topographical feasibility, and constantly changing environmental conditions.
    • Audience: scientific community, cattle producers and stewards/managers of land, government agencies
    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.