Cattle Surveillance Drones Offer Many Benefits To Farmers

drone taking off for cow surveillance

There has been an increased use of drones in the farming industry in recent years. Many farmers have come around to the idea that these UAVs can help save time, money and effort in crucial operations.

Farmers have learned that these machines are helpful tools when managing crops and looking after their fields. There are many agricultural benefits with GPS tools, imaging, and other software.

Others have embraced drones further for mapping their land, monitoring transportation and enhancing on-site security. Another option that farmers should consider is the use of a drone for cattle surveillance and herding. A good drone and a skilled pilot can help farmers keep track of their animals in new ways.

The Increased Use Of Drones In Farming

Agweb and Farm Journal Pulse carried out a poll in 2017 about farmers’ attitudes to drones.  A total of 1092 people responded so that is only a small sample. Yet, there was an interesting 3-way split in opinion on the matter.

Some 36% of those polled said that they had no plans to use drones at all in 2018. Another 31% were considering the potential of switching to drones.

Finally, 33% had already brought drones into their farm’s operation. Of that 33%, 21% of them were already operating their drones themselves, while 12% brought in a third-party operator.

cow monitoring in field

This graph shows an interesting split and shift in attitudes. Some farmers will naturally prefer the old-fashioned methods they have used for decades. Other farming families may see that the pros of drones in agriculture outweigh the cons.

There is no reason why this drone tech can’t come into play with livestock too. There are different challenges to monitoring livestock like cattle rather than crops. The most significant challenge is that cattle are living beings with complex health needs and a desire to roam. The right drone system can help to monitor their movements and health from afar. Improved cattle surveillance could then impact upon the health of the herd, the efficiency of the farm and long-term costs.

Drones And Animal Location

Aerial drone surveillance on cattle farms means a more simplistic way to monitor the location of the animals. There are two main benefits here.

The first benefit is to monitor the current location of the herd and the number of animals in that location. This birds-eye view gives a more immediate indication of the status of the herd and where to find them. The herd could be miles from their last known whereabouts. But, a short drone flight signals where they went and if all members of the herd followed.

The other benefit comes in locating those herd members that either took a different route or got lost.

The mechanics and software of these drones can help in the herding practice. Skilled pilots can use these cattle surveillance drones as annoying, buzzing herdsmen of their own. The right flight path could direct the cattle towards the rest of their herd.

Then there is the tracking software within the drone. A good connection between the drone and a biometric tag offers instant information on the identity of the cows. Trackers in ear tags are one of the best ways to keep an eye on long-range grazers. But, standard systems rely on long-range communications with radio towers. A drone can pick up a signal when it flies within a certain distance.

A good drone system can locate animals in potentially dangerous situations.  An early warning system and quick response time can also help in emergencies.

For example, a drone could prove very helpful in a flood or fire. A routine drone flight could spot signs of trouble that perhaps aren’t as clear on the ground. Pilots can then deploy the drone to the area and use it to herd the animals to a safe location. This action is much faster and potentially more efficient than sending human farm-hands to help. There is also the fact that this remote operation keeps workers out of harm’s way too.

Source: CTV News

Drones And Animals At Risk

Tracking software is vital for regular updates on the locations and numbers of herds. But, good cattle management is about caring for individuals as much as the herd as a whole. Cattle farming comes with many risks.

Animals can pick up injuries while out on the hillsides. Or, they may contract illnesses from contact with parasites, sick animals or contaminants. Farmers can bring in vets, administer medication and put animals on the best course of action.

Still, many will continue to roam and graze while fighting their condition. This continued routine can cause some stress if farmers aren’t immediately aware of the location of these animals.

Drone-based cattle surveillance and software allow users to pinpoint locations and check an animal’s progress. It is easy to see if the cow has strayed from the herd or appears to be struggling. At the same time, this is a great tool for spotting injuries or other issues as they arise.

If a cow falls or becomes trapped somewhere, a drone will find them much faster than a human team on the ground. This speedy time frame could save lives.

Drones Help Farmers Locate Pregnant and Birthing Cows

An important factor here in the health and safety of cattle regards the next generation. There could be many pregnant cows trekking through the territory of the farm during certain months of the year. It can be difficult to keep track of the movements of all these individuals and keep an eye on their condition. It helps to be vigilant with heavily pregnant mothers in case of early labor or complications.

In an ideal world, they will birth a calf with no problems and vets can give mother and baby a clean bill of health. Yet, there will be times when mothers struggle, the calves are in the wrong position or the conditions aren’t right.

Drone-based cattle surveillance allows herders and farmers to spot cows in labor and direct farm-hands to the right location. Farmers then know someone will attend the birth sooner rather than later, with a good chance of a better outcome for all concerned.

Using Drones To Spot Threats From Predators

The safety of a herd is crucial at all times. Every cow is a prized possession with great value as both a living creature and a commodity for the farm. Therefore, it is important that farmers keep an eye on all kinds of threats to the health and well-being of these animals.

Another potential safety aspect here is the risk of predation. Predation risks will obviously depend on the region and the local wildlife. Still, there are many predatory animals ready to pick off weak or young cattle. Desperate individuals may also try their luck with larger, healthier animals.

Drone surveillance offers a chance to scan the area for predators and possibly scare them away. At the moment, this scare tactic relies upon the idea that animals will run at the sight and sound of the drone. Future tech may include additional software and speakers for noises.

cow surveillance in pasture

Many farmers across North America will see drones in agriculture as little more than an economic issue. This is about managing the herd and saving some money. Yet, there are cases where cattle surveillance drones help farmers with security issues too.

For example, there is an ongoing conflict in Nigeria between farmers and herdsmen. The farmers are angry at what they see as irresponsible Fulani herdsmen damaging crops through a lack of control of their cattle. Meanwhile, the Fulani herdsmen claim that those farmers actually steal cattle. The resulting bloodshed led to a clear need for action.

Surveillance drones patrol the herds and track movements in an attempt to keep the peace. Thankfully, rivalries in North America aren’t that intense. But, there are still plenty of safety risks to the animals.

Drones Are A Cost-Cutting Measure

Animal safety is clearly important for any farm. But, the farm is a business and still needs to operate with a balanced book and clear profit margins. Can this new high-tech system really help to cut costs?

First of all, farmers need to consider the costs of sending teams of hired farm-hands to do this job. There could be a lot of people out in fuel-hungry vehicles trying to track cattle for hours on end. Those individuals would surely agree that their time is better spent on other tasks if a drone can locate cattle in minutes.

The drone saves money on labor, fuel and other operational costs. A drone saves money on costly, ineffective tracking equipment. A drone also saves a lot of money if it can help protect the lives of the animals. There is a price to pay for the equipment and certification, but it all balances out.
A drone for cattle surveillance and herding sounds like a pretty sophisticated piece of kit. Therefore, many farmers will worry that this set-up will be ridiculously expensive. The truth is that farmers can make this high-tech and expensive as it needs to be.

There are some big-budget machines and bonus software that will provide extra tools at a price. This extra expense may provide some peace of mind for technophiles ready to embrace drones on the farm. But, there are also some pretty low-budget drones that will get the job done.

As long as the drone is easy to use and offers the functions required, it doesn’t have to be pricey. Additional costs can come from the software, but buyers still have options to explore. The industry is sure to see increased competition between developers and brands for a profit in this new section of the drone industry. There is already a range of software for analyzing crops. Cattle herding software is here! These applications could help with grazing patterns, better counting, predator defenses and more.

All farmers need to understand is how to fly the drone, or else leave it in the hands of a professional pilot.
Whatever drone that farmers choose, and however sophisticated the software, it is essential they know how to operate the device. Current FAA guidelines are understandably strict about flying safe, pilot certification, and drone regulation.

Farmers need to understand the drone, fly it within eye level and avoid any unnecessary risk. This is important for the safety of all concerned – including the cattle – and the effectiveness of the survey.

One of the great things about using these drones on farms is that this is private land. There are no issues with the tech getting too close to other property or the public. All farmers have to do is launch the drone, conduct a safe flight and process the data. Alternatively, farm owners can hire a third-party pilot to streamline the process.

Drones Could Revolutionize Cattle Farming

The potential benefits for the use of drones in cattle surveillance and farming are perhaps more diverse than many farmers first realize. Many farmers initially will be most interested in the potential economic benefits of this approach on their farm. There are clear monetary benefits to a safe, healthy herd that increases productivity and yields.

But, there is also the benefit of cost-cutting in regard to the hired help and equipment used to monitor the herds. There is a short-term expense in the drone, tech and license and plenty of long-term economic benefits. Of course, then there are the animal welfare benefits too. A strong surveillance system should help farmers keep a better eye on the situation. This means a better view of pregnant cows, predators, and individuals that stray from the herd.

Drones can be a little daunting to experienced farmers. Many may believe that they have decades of experience in cattle herding, so why change the system. But, it really does make a lot of sense to bring a drone into the operation of the cattle farm. Even if it is in the hands of a skilled, third-party pilot, it will still provide all the benefits mentioned above. Drones with high-tech surveillance are the way forward in cattle farming. It could save lives, save time and save a lot of money.


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