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Utilizing Cutting-Edge Technology to Manage Grazing Cattle Without Fencing Boundaries

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As I prepared for my summer in Ardmore, Oklahoma, I found myself wondering about the research project I would be assigned. My interests have always revolved around forage management and crop-animal interactions, so naturally, I hoped I would be working with cows and grass in some way. But, when I began my first week as a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture, I was introduced to a world of cows and grass I had yet to experience.

Charlotte Talbott looks at cattle in corral

Before I begin, it is important to talk about how I ended up at the Noble Research Institute. During my freshman year at North Carolina State University, I was walking out of class when I noticed a poster for the program. As I did some research, I was thrilled to find out that all of my agricultural interests existed in one place. From that point on, I knew being a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture was my dream internship. After my second year applying to the program, I received an interview and shortly after, a call that let me know I had been accepted to the program. It was time to make the trek from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Ardmore, Oklahoma.

When my mentor, Ryon Walker, Ph.D., informed me I would be leading the Vence project, I was unsure of what I was about to dive into. Vence is a company based out of Australia that is looking to reduce fence and labor costs associated with the physical fencing in of cattle. Virtual fencing would allow cattle to be restricted in certain areas of pasture through GPS collars equipped with auditory and tactile stimulation. This technology introduces a whole new (labor-free) approach to ranch management and rotational grazing.

Charlotte Talbott installs collars on calvesCharlotte Talbott installs collars on calves with the help of Richard Duncan, fellow 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture.

My research on this project is validating the use of virtual fencing on smaller pastures more common to rotational grazing systems. In addition, I am testing the producer-friendliness of the program and suggesting enhancements to optimize efficiency for ranchers. During the first week of the project, I helped install collars on 84 yearling calves that began their training with the virtual fence. After being split into a treatment and control group, the calves are introduced to a rotational grazing system where I will observe their responses to stimulation.

Cattle graze with GPS-equipped collarsCattle graze with GPS-equipped collars.

My goals working on the Vence project and as a Noble scholar are to soak in all of the experiences and information I can. I want to return to North Carolina with new knowledge and put it toward finishing my first degree. The Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture program has so much to offer students interested in any facet of agriculture, and the welcoming staff is more than willing to help us reach our goals. While my project encourages grazing without boundaries, I am striving to become an agricultural advocate of knowledge without boundaries.

Charlotte Talbott is a 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from North Carolina.