Loudoun Farm Embraces Invisible Fencing for Rotational Grazing

October 18, 2023, by Charlie Paullin

Georges Mill goat farm in Loudoun County is experimenting with GPS collars and invisible fencing technology for rotational grazing, a method promising significant environmental benefits including reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Farm owners Molly and Sam Kroiz participated in a demonstration organized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, highlighting the system’s impact since its introduction in mid-April. This technology, still in the pilot phase, offers flexibility in managing livestock, encouraging farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices by keeping animals away from waterways and enhancing ground cover health.

Rotational grazing involves moving livestock across different fields, preventing land overgrazing and subsequent waterway pollution due to soil erosion. Virginia officials aim to implement prescribed grazing on 347,363 acres as part of a Bay cleanup initiative, with expectations of reduced sediment, nutrient, and pathogen loads in water runoff.

Functionality of Invisible Fencing

The Kroizes are trialing technology from Nofence, expected for commercial launch in 2024. The system employs a GPS collar on goats, controlled via a smartphone app. This digital setup enables farmers to easily establish or alter grazing boundaries.

The collar warns goats nearing the set perimeter with beeping, followed by a shock wave and high-pitched noise if they attempt to cross it. The herd’s collective response to the audio cues helps in maintaining the boundaries. Notably, the collars, priced around $200 each, come with a solar recharging feature and require a monthly subscription for app service and support.

According to Chesapeake Bay Foundation specialists, this approach is cost-effective compared to traditional fencing, which averages $8 per linear foot. For example, enclosing a 90-acre area with traditional fencing would be significantly more expensive.

Ecological and Practical Advantages

The system supports rotational grazing by allowing farmers to adjust boundaries effortlessly, promoting vegetation growth and reducing erosion and nutrient runoff. It also facilitates livestock management on rented lands and in flood-prone or disease-affected areas, presenting a cost-effective, flexible solution.

However, the technology poses challenges, including livestock vulnerability to predators. Continued research and validation are essential for assessing its reliability, cost-effectiveness, and integration into farming operations, as noted by Martha Moore from the Virginia Farm Bureau.

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