Virtual Fencing for the 21st Century

Virtual Fencing for 21st Century Range Pasture Management

by Dr. George Ruyle, Professor and Extension Specialist, UArizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Marley Endowed Chair for Sustainable Rangelands, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona

May 21, 2021

Ranching serves as a nexus of economics, culture and conservation in the Southwest. A new initiative, funded by the Marley Foundation for Sustainable Rangeland Stewardship and the Arizona Experiment Station provides a major step in integrating traditional livestock production practices with emerging technologies and novel research to meet the challenges of a changing world. 

This public-private partnership between the UArizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE), the UArizona Santa Rita Experimental Range (SRER) and the Santa Rita Ranch, Inc. will engage emerging virtual fence technology developed by the Vence Corporation ( for livestock management and ecological research. The research effort has broad ecological and economic implications for rangelands and producers.

Virtual fencing operates as a network of GPS enabled cattle collars (Riders) that communicate via long range radio signal (LoRa) to a base station (Gateway) that relays data transmissions via a cellular network to a web-based Herd Manager application. Herd Manager enables the end user to remotely establish both static and dynamic barriers (Fences) using multiple low-impact stimuli on the collars that can be used to move livestock, establish pasture boundaries, or prohibit access to features such as roadways or ecologically sensitive areas. Users can also interface with the Herd Manager app. to determine individual animal or herd location in real time as well as examine base line space or pasture use over a select time frame via rendered point cloud or heat map. Base line biometric data are also available including movement status and inactivity notifications.

The research initiatives proposed by the team aim to examine multiple factors related to overall virtual fence function and efficacy as well as economic metrics. Basic product function and utility will be assessed through a variety of real-world herd management trials with the results disseminated to producers and land managers via lectures, meetings, reports, and digital media through UArizona Cooperative Extension. Economic metrics related to product inputs and cost savings around traditional fencing and application of labor will be conducted in conjunction with the UArizona Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. These assessments will be used to better quantify return on investment for producers at the commercial scale.

UA researchers will also examine multiple dimensions related to grazing ecology and interactions of livestock on the range. GPS and biometric data, transmitted via cattle collars, will be related to landscape and environmental variables to quantify resource selection preference of livestock over both space and time. This information can be used to better determine the environmental cues cattle use when making decisions on what, where and when to graze. When coupled with the virtual fence technology’s ability to move cattle remotely, this novel approach aims to one day allow producers to develop a dynamic grazing system that maximizes quality forage intake while more evenly distributing grazing effort across the landscape, a win for livestock, producers and rangelands. In addition, virtual fencing will be applied to examine the utility of livestock grazing as a management tool for fuel load reduction for fire prevention and invasive species control. The data associated with this research effort will be made publicly available for further analysis via online data management portal. 

Development of adaptive management strategies play a key role in addressing the ongoing challenges posed by a dynamic climate and humanities growing need for resources. The integration of novel technologies combined with well-established agricultural knowledge and methodologies has the potential to develop mutually beneficial outcomes for both the ranching community and the environment.


More information can be found at, the supplier of the technology.

YouTube Video: NextGen Fencing: The Future of Pasture Management