An Australian company has a solution for every cattleman who ever wondered where their cattle were and if they had water. GPS tags on the cattle let ranchers like Greg Adams track every single animal and check water levels in every tank.
“I was coming up 8 to 10 head short every year, and at $1,200 to $1,400per head each, you’re out $10,000 a year,” says Adams. “I started looking for a solution, and I came across an article on Moovement.Their system was expensive, but by using the tags on multiple animals over a period of a few years, the price was down to about $10 per head.On a thousand head, that was equal to one year’s theft loss.” While he doesn’t yet know if the technology will stop theft, what he has found is a huge savings in time and labor.
Adams normally runs between 1,000 and 1,500 stocker calves a year on grass pastures in the summer and wheat fields in the winter. “I run18 to 20 different pastures in the summer and 8 to 10 wheat fields in the winter,” says Adams. “I try to cover half the pastures every day and run150 to 200 miles to do it. If there is a problem, Murphy’s law says you find it near the end of the day. Drive home to get the needed tools and back to fix it, adding hours to the day.” That all changed this past winter when Adams outfitted his cattle with Moovement ear tags and several of his water tanks with monitors. “Now I get up in the morning and check my computer,” says Adams. “I can see where every animal is within 25 yards and see that the tanks are full.”The knowledge lets him plan the day, taking care of known problems. If the software indicates some calves are not where they should be, Adams can locate them and arrange to get them back. If a tank is low or a pump hasn’t run, he can head out with the tools needed to fix it. Ranching in an area with 2 months of 90+ degree weather, having adequate water is vital.“I never expected the impact this technology would have,” says Adams. “I think it can increase the number of cattle a person can handle by 50 percent. It helps me take better care of the animals I have and gives me the knowledge to make informed decisions quicker and easier.”
“I was coming up 8 to 10 head short every year, and at $1,200 to $1,400 per head each, you’re out $10,000 a year. The investment in mOOvement pays for itself and will also help me increase the number of cattle I can handle by 50%”
Pieter Vogels is hearing similar stories from livestock producers around the world. The co-CEO of Moovement has seen the company go from a concept to being active in 16 countries around the world and in use on thousands of head of cattle. “Wes tarted in Australia, making tags, developing software and working with cattlemen to experience the problems they faced,” says Vogels.
A battery and solar panel are integrated into the reusable ear tag to power the GPS transmitter to send out location signals to area antennas every 2 hrs. Antennas placed around the range send the information to the internet for access by an app on the owner’s phone, tablet or computer.
Moovement customers can set up their own LoRaWAN (long range wide area network) as Adams did or install a homestead antenna that covers an area with a radius of 4 to 5 miles. LoRaWAN antennas can also be installed off-grid in the field, or a local area antenna can be moved with the cattle. Actual coverage depends on terrain and tree cover. Water monitoring can be done with an ultrasonic sensor on tanks and troughs or with a pressure sensor that monitors dams and creeks.
Designing the ear tags themselves was a big challenge. Weight had to be under 30 grams for animal health, yet the body had to be a rigid plastic to protect the hardware with a small, but flexible neck that wouldn’t break. The material also had to be UV and bacteria resistant. The Moovement team is working on new applications of the data produced, developing algorithms that can alert cattlemen to potential problems.
“If a user creates a geofence around the pasture or paddock, the GPS data can be used to derive a ‘jumping fence’ alert when an animal moves into a different area,” says Vogel. “We can also use the movement data to analyze grazing patterns and more.”Bull performance is already available for a separate fee. It tracks the distance the bull walks, interaction with the herd and lets you compare bulls. Eventually, Vogel suggests, the tags may detect heat, provide a “not moving” alert or a coughing alert. While it may not yet be the theft solution Adams was searching for, if animals travel outside the antenna’s coverage area, a theft alert could be sent to owners.