Farm dogs can be very important to livestock operations for the purposes of predator control, but they can also be a source of headaches and additional expense when fences fail to keep them contained.
A farm dog ending up in places other than where they are needed is an all-too-familiar problem that those in the livestock industry deal with. Finding a way to keep those farm protectors inside set boundaries, like an invisible fence, is often not economically feasible when those boundaries are measured in acres.
That may not be the case anymore, as now, the same technology that maps out travels plans and keeps farm equipment heading in a straight line is being used to keep a farm’s four-legged predator defense system from venturing off of the homestead.
“Essentially, each dog that would be on the system (up to 10) would wear a GPS collar which communicates directly with GPS satellites,” said Brandon Baker, Sales Supervisor with Invisible Fence of Dayton and Columbus West. “The central base station, which is mounted to a structure on the property, increases the accuracy of the fence to three feet of the selected boundaries.”
Setting up the perimeter of the GPS fencing system begins with software that utilizes Google Maps that electronically plots out points to set preferred boundaries. Those points can be changed or customized as the farm’s situation may change.
When you compare the GPS option to the conventional underground wire fencing, there is a point where the newer, high-tech choice is more cost effective.
“The underground wire systems typically cover areas as small as a quarter of an acre or less up to fifteen acres or so,” Baker said. “Because of the GPS system’s size requirements, we generally like to start with properties that are five acres and above and there is no upward limit as to how many acres we can cover, we could put a boundaries around the entire U.S. if we wanted to.”
When a wired system is installed on 10 to 15 acres, the cost would be the equivalent of what the new GPS technology would run. The unit’s price point is around the $3,000 mark, including the equipment, installation and training.
“We take the time to teach dogs that will be on the GPS system how their new collars work, how to find their boundaries using the collar and how to respond properly by stopping, turning around and backing away when they come too close to the boundaries,” Baker said.
The Percival’s, who have over 40 years in the sheep industry and currently have 65 brood ewes in Greene Country, are putting this new fencing technology to use. Keeping their two Great Pyrenees dogs close by is important to their bottom-line.
“Our dogs do a really good job at controlling predators in our area,” Jim Percival said. “Most recently we have found that black vultures are an issue and our Great Pyrenees are great for those as well.”
“Since we had the new GPS containment system put in, when the dogs get within 30 feet of one of their boundaries, it stops them and turns them around,” Percival said. “Before we installed the new system, our oldest dog would not only protect our livestock, but everyone else’s within a three-mile radius. Now, he stays put and hasn’t left the farm at all.”
Recently, Percival was introduced to the folks in Tennessee that developed the GPS technology and once he was sold on the idea, he called Invisible Fence to start the process.
“It was very, very easy to implement,” Percival said. “They came by with their computers and pulled up the county auditor’s website, then they set up the perimeter of our farm and put in the points we wanted and drew straight lines about 30 feet off of the property line to adjust for the satellite ranges and we were all set.”
As with any new technology added to an operation, the start-up cost may be the hardest bite to swallow, but Percival sees the GPS system paying for itself once he takes into account the lambs he may be saving from keeping his dogs close by.
“Since we have implemented this new system, we have not lost any lambs to predators,” Percival said. “This past winter, we did have some coyotes starting to come around and our dogs and donkey chased them off before any harm was done.”
In the future this technology has the potential of being used on larger animals, not only to keep them within a certain area, but to also track each individual animal to know their location at any given time.
Percival is getting his farm prepped for Ohio Sheep Day and he is not only proud to host the event on his farm, but he says this is a great opportunity for his part of the state.
“This is the first year that I recall the event coming to southwest Ohio,” Percival said. “There are a lot of small sheep breeders in this area and we wanted to give them the opportunity to learn about some of the new ideas that make our industry better.”
The topic of predator control and management is where the new GPS technology will fit in the event’s program. The day will also include helpful tips for those just getting started in the sheep business and some discussions about manure management, which is a topic that is front and center in Ohio.
Bob Hendershot will be on hand to hold a forage clinic on Percival’s alfalfa fields, and the topics of approved EQIP practices for sheep farms, basic sheep management practices, lambing barn arrangements and proper selection of sheep equipment will also be covered.
Registration for the 2015 Ohio Sheep Day on July 11th is $15 for Ohio Sheep Improvement Association members and $25 for non-members and includes lunch.
For additional information on the event visit OhioSheep.org.