Sheep can be trained to remain within virtual fencing systems in the same way as cattle, according to University of New England post-doctoral fellow Danila Marini.
That is the promising early result the NSW based Uni and CSIRO has found, with sheep wearing collars responding to audio cues within three to six interactions.
Dr Marini will be a guest speaker at the Livestock E-Technology for Natural Resources Management seminar, being held by the Angaston Agricultural Bureau and the Society for Precision Agriculture Australia, on Friday March 23.
She is part of a team of researchers working on the three-year virtual fencing project and hopes to develop ethical training protocol for sheep.
She says Agersens is close to commercialising the technology in cattle, but far less is known about the ability to train sheep to remain within the electric fields.
The biggest challenge for sheep will be developing an ear tag or other device to deliver the electrical stimulus.
“Australia has a lot of Merinos which grow wool so a collar won’t work by itself ,’ she said.
Dr Marini’s project is now turning to finding the optimal percentage of the flock which will need collars for effective fencing, and also whether lambs can be trained with their mothers.
She will also outline a couple of other projects she is involved; one here in SA with the Department of Water & Natural Resources looking at using virtual collars on sheep for weed management and another with Dairy Australia looking at grazing management of dairy cattle.
“A lot of technology is coming in that can tell us a lot about individual behaviour of livestock. We can use this behaviour as a measure of their health and welfare,” Dr Marini said.
The E-Tech day will be held in conjunction with the long-running Angaston Agricultural Bureau Hogget Competition.
Other speakers will include Agersens business development’s Charlton Honig and Poppy McBain.
Cousins Merino Services’ Michelle Cousins will demonstrate a range of services, including electronic tag and reader requirements, data collection of wool, carcase and pregnancy scanning information.
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