Stakeholder Challenges and Opportunities of GPS Shock Collars to Achieve Optimum Welfare in a Conservation or Farm Setting

McCormick, Iris Alexandra and Stokes, Jessica Elizabeth (2023) Stakeholder Challenges and Opportunities of GPS Shock Collars to Achieve Optimum Welfare in a Conservation or Farm Setting. Animals, 13 (3084). ISSN 2076-2615

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Virtual fences for livestock facilitated by a GPS shock collar (GPS-SC) and phone app were introduced to the UK in cattle herd trials in 2020. Technology which uses aversive shocks to control livestock movement on farms and in other settings poses a significant risk to livestock welfare. There are currently no welfare protocols in place in the UK to ensure the ethical use of GPS-SCs. The objective of this study was to understand how GPS-SCs were being used in practice in the UK and gather data to assist researchers and policymakers in the future research and development of a welfare protocol for the UK. We studied how the technology performs in terms of welfare challenges and opportunities, covering extensive livestock production, conservation settings, “rewilding”, and regenerative farming practices, where the technology is currently being applied. Semistructured interviews were conducted with key stakeholders. In-depth interviews (n = 8) supported the previous literature that the use of GPS-SCs in restricted grazing settings poses a risk to animal welfare. This is due to the wavering virtual fence boundary line (which is affected by satellite movements), a lack of visual markers, and, in some “rewilding” and conservation settings, livestock keepers, which require training and support to enable optimal welfare in practice and prevent misuse of the technology. Results also indicated that there are opportunities for enhancing livestock welfare with GPS-SCs in very extensive farm settings, where targeted care can be facilitated by using the data to monitor and track livestock using GPS-SCs, and which can also prevent cattle injury or fatality through virtual pastures designed to protect livestock from hazards such as roads or bogs. Future research is needed to focus on minimising shocks in the training period and to better understand the value of visual electric fences in the training process.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: electric fences, nofence, virtual fencing, animal welfare, cattle, electric collars, grazing, conservation, virtual livestock fence/ing
Divisions: Agriculture, Food and Environment
Depositing User: Iris Alexandra McCormick
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2023 08:25
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2023 08:25

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