Virtual fencing trial begins at Newborough National Nature Reserve
Sands of LIFE and Natural Resources Wales will be trialling Nofence technology over the coming months to further support sustainable grazing at Newborough.
While sand dunes are natural, dynamic places, we still need to intervene to stop them from becoming overgrown with dense grasses and scrub. Traditional grazing by livestock keeps our sand dunes healthy; creating perfect conditions for specialist dune wildlife to thrive.
Here Jake Burton, Sands of LIFE Project and Monitoring Officer North, explains the technology and our plan over the coming months, as the project continues its work to revitalise sand dunes across Wales.
What is ‘Nofence’ and how does the technology work?
The Nofence system is comprised of smart collars which contain trackers, and a mobile phone application, which the collars are synced to. The app will allow us to ‘draw’ a virtual grazing compartment, which can be moved or changed when needed.
The technology allows grazing animals to move through wider landscapes in a more natural way, creating mosaics of habitat that boosts rare wildlife. We will be able to easily ‘fence’ areas we wish to protect and naturally herd livestock into places that have in the past remained under-grazed. In time the system, may allow us to graze areas which are currently unfenced.
When an animal approaches the virtual fence line an audio warning is triggered by the collar. If the animal gets nearer to the fence the sound will change pitch; then if the cow continues to ignore the warning it will receive a short harmless pulse - similar to that of an electric fence.
At all times, we will be able to track the location of each cow, using the app. This will allow us to closely monitor the herd and their grazing patterns.
Our plan over the coming months
Our cows will be first trained so they become familiar with the new technology and get used to wearing the collars. This will take place in the Llyn Rhos Ddu grazing compartments, where the cows will be able to learn to associate the warning sound with the presence of first a real fence line, and then a virtual one. Cows quickly learn to turn back when they hear the sound, and once this has happened, they will be moved back onto the wider reserve to graze within a new virtual enclosure.
All Sands of LIFE work is delivered with the ambition of keeping Newborough’s wonderful sand dunes healthy. Please keep an eye on our social media feeds where we’ll continue to post regular updates. You can find us at @TwyniByw on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook or by searching Sands of LIFE.
If you have any queries about our work, please contact Jake Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org