Virtual fencing helping to improve the future of ranching

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Posted at 11:44 AM, Feb 01, 2022

MISSOULA, Mont. — Ranchers across the country are looking toward new technology to help sustain their livelihood. Now, one company is introducing virtual fencing to help improve ranchers workload and the environment.

"For the last 30 to 40 years, I’ve studied grazing management and we’ve built a lot of infrastructure for that,” said Leo Bathelmess, a rancher in Montana. “Barb wired fence, electric fence and temporary fences try and manage the animals to help with soil health, livestock health and wildlife health as well.”

Across the country, ranchers have to keep their grazing livestock in line. Usually, the ranchers build fences in certain ares to help keep their cattle out of unwanted places.

“There’s this really challenging labor and productivity issues that a lot of farms and ranches face,” said Frank Wooten, the CEO of Vence, a company dedicated to providing virtual fencing for farmers. “There’s also the unintended negatives of having a face. An elk migratory pattern that a fence line blocks them. Or you got a hillside that’s rocky in Colorado where you really couldn’t put a fence on cause the snow knocks them over every year.”

Now, technology from Wooten’s company has made this aspect of ranching more efficient with virtual fencing.

According to Wooten, Vence provides collars that attach to cattle and monitor them with GPS and sounds.

“It really works by training animals to marry a sound as a source of stimuli,” Wooten said. “The animals learn a sound means don’t go there. After they’re trained, which takes less than 48 hours to learn that you suddenly can use sound to encourage the animal to go places, keep them out of places and move them from place to place.”

Wooten said when the company first started in 2019, 25 ranches used the technology.

Wooten said the company plans to add 100 more ranches using Vence by the end of 2022.

Barthelmess has been using Vence since 2019.

“We can manage the livestock in a lot more consistent and supporting manner for soil health,” Barthelmess said. “And using this can increase our stock densities and increase the amount of rest the grasslands get. What we really want our end goals are is to have twice as much vegetation per square foot on the ranch. We want to retain all the rain fall that falls on the ranch, we want to retain onto soil profile or on wetlands so we can benefit livestock as well as wildlife.”

Wooten said his company expanded tremendously but hopes this can spread to more places across the country and around the world to help ranchers.