Virtual Fencing without Long-Term Stress for Cows

Agroscope researchers tested a virtual fencing system that delimits the pastures without a physical barrier, using acoustic and electrical signals only. The cows quickly learned the system without longer-term negative effects on animal welfare.

Virtual fencing systems are commercially available for cattle, sheep and goats, but are not allowed in Switzerland due to animal welfare concerns. Negative stress for the animals, usability and reliability are open questions.

Agroscope tested a virtual fencing system for lactating dairy cows in the lowlands as well as for heifers in the mountain region. Findings were positive: The cows learned to appropriately react to the virtual boundary after receiving an average of eight electrical pulses. This is comparable to previous studies under the respective test conditions. Most of the acoustic signals and electrical pulses occurred in the first three days. After this, the number of electrical pulses remained low and eventually dropped to zero, even when the cows were moved to a different pasture with a new virtual boundary.

The studies were conducted in the summers of 2021, 2022 and 2023. The project was subsidised by the Schweizerischer Landmaschinen-Verband [= Swiss Farm Machinery Association] (SLV).

Last modification 06.02.2024

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