‘Invisible Fence’ Keeps Cattle on Ranch, Helps Protect Environment (UF News)

‘Invisible Fence’ Keeps Cattle on Ranch, Helps Protect Environment

For decades, Jim Strickland has managed and operated Blackbeard’s Ranch in Myakka City. As much as he cares about his cattle, he sees himself as an environmental steward. Strickland, 68, has been in the cattle business since he was a child. He loves the land, and he believes in the value science brings to his ranch.

Those are some reasons he partnered with Joao Vendramini, an agronomy professor at the University of Florida Range Cattle Research and Education Center (REC), on an invisible fence for his ranch — a first-of-its-kind project in the Southeast. 

With funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – and some of his own money — Strickland installed cell towers on his property. The NRCS and the Florida Conservation Group are helping UF/IFAS with the project, which includes deferred grazing.

Research projects also include using virtual fencing and excluding cattle from wetland areas during nesting season. 

With the project, the towers send signals to collared cattle. Those signals convey a message to cattle to stay within given areas of Strickland’s ranch. The system acts as an invisible fence.

Fencing is a big deal to ranchers. While it’s designed to keep their herds from wandering off, it can stop the flow of wildlife migration, injure cattle if an animal gets tangled up in a fence, and is expensive to maintain or replace when damaged. Strickland lost 28 miles of fencing during Hurricane Ian.

Vendramini sees huge advantages to the invisible fence.

“You know where your cows are all the time, and you can change its boundaries any time you want,” he said. 

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