Monitoring and Moving Livestock On The Farm Using Drones

Drones For Livestock Management

Drones are monitoring and moving livestock on farms, regardless of their size or where they graze. Drones for livestock management are the next logical step in agricultural technology.

Drones equipped with thermal imaging capability and cameras can monitor and track livestock movements and health. They also can count and check in on workers on land. In addition, unmanned aircraft can locate lost or stray sheep and detect sick or injured animals. This reduces the need to land and enhances the information available for farmers to manage their livestock.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) save time and increase property awareness. However, farmers have limited control over many factors, including weather, economics, and disease. Drone technology allows precision farming and gives landowners access to a large pool of data to help them plan.

After drone adoption, agriculture is the second-largest industry. By 2026, the market for UAVs in agriculture is expected to exceed five billion pounds. Intelligent eyes in the sky will become the tipping point for smart livestock management.

Straight Up Facts About Farming

Farmers lose money when they lose sheep and cows. Losses can be as high as one in five lambs, five percent of ewes, and ten percent of calves born in dairy farms in any given year. Every year, the costs of disease and premature death in sheep flocks or cattle herds can reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

Livestock Management – Currently

We rely on livestock for the meat, milk products, eggs, wool, leather, and other products we use in the industry. Therefore, the livestock industry is a renewable resource.

Traditional farming methods prevail in livestock management. Since the beginning of man’s quest to raise animals for his own needs, these methods have been around.

The slow adoption of new technology by the livestock industry is a sign of how slow they are. This sector is subject to unpredictable and shifting economics. This can make it difficult to invest in new technology, but improving accuracy through tracking, monitoring, and data returns is a huge opportunity for livestock managers.

The most critical aspect of managing livestock is to ensure that they are adequately fed and cared for. The core functions of livestock farming include grazing, maintaining health, treating and preventing disease, collecting produce and butchery, and gathering and storing fertilizer.

Farmers must be supervisors of staff and financial controllers, and salespeople who work with wholesalers and agents. Digital technology, nutrition technologies, and genetics are all driving the change in agriculture. Drones are playing a big part in the broader move towards “agri-tech.”

Agricultural Drones

A typical agricultural drone setup has propulsion and navigation systems as well as GPS equipment, sensors, cameras, and GPS navigation equipment. The farmer-pilot uses programmable controllers to control the drone or launch an automated flight program.

UAVs for agriculture can capture precise information more efficiently and accurately than satellites and airplanes. Drone-based software for agritech processes the data and presents it in an easily read format.

Drones are also able to perform functions such as moving flocks and herds.

Image by: livestock drone dji

Tracking All Animals- Large and Small

Monitoring the location of cattle and sheep is a labor-intensive task because they spend long periods out in the fields and hills of the country.  The traditional tracking method relies on human observation.

It can identify animals either by their natural characteristics like color and breed, or it can be used to mark and identify individual animals using artificial means like tags, colored collars, and painted-on symbols. However, this method is susceptible to observer error as well as fatigue.

A drone for surveillance, equipped only with a camera, can provide an autonomous remote method for shepherds and farmers to track livestock movements. This allows them to monitor the stock from the kitchen tables of the farmhouse.

However, this power significantly increases when you add other technology like sensors, GPS location information, and animal identification systems.

Utilizing UAVs in animal tracking and monitoring enables a full scope of livestock monitoring and management, including pasture utilization, assessing and responding to livestock behavior, and planning grazing distribution.

Multi-UAV systems may perform any or all of these functions.

  • Cameras facing down to monitor motion and orientation in livestock herds;
  • Thermal infrared imaging cameras are used to locate the location, especially in dark areas, undergrowth, and woodlands.
  • GPS collars that are fitted to animals with GPS-fitted collars are used to locate specific locations.
  • Livestock identification systems

Precision Livestock Farming is a way to manage individual animals through continuous monitoring of their welfare, production, and environmental impact.

UAVs initially cover the entire area of a livestock monitoring program, including the field, pasture, or greater, to locate all the animals. These data are used to identify livestock density and clustering, as well as plotting movement.

A limiting factor of current drones is in flight times due to battery constraints. However, the software can track and analyze livestock movements, location, and movement to reduce “flight time to the animal.” This maximizes drone efficiency and minimizes flight times and distances from base to the animal, animal to animal, and herd to herd and back again.

The UAV would fly again and continue to monitor animal movements after the initial sweep. You can download the data for analysis, tracking, and comparison.

Drones also use facial recognition systems to identify specific animals.

Drones To Monitor Livestock Health

Every year, a handful of infections cause considerable losses to the farming industry. For example, bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is estimated to cost between PS25 and PS61m per annum in the UK. At the same time, intestinal parasites and stomach worms in New Zealand was the first country to undertake this task. New Zealand has approximately 27 million sheep.

In New South Wales, a shepherd from Rotherham described how his drone made tending to sheep much more enjoyable and efficient in spring 2019.

It’s perfect for winter flying, especially if you are at home on cold days.

“Also, when we’re lambing, we can fly the drone around, it’s ideal [camera] zoom, going straight in, looking at the drone monitor], and not disturbing the ewes.”

A DJI Mavi 2 Enterprise Dual model is a cost-effective solution to a large task. You can use the drone to transport stock or check water levels and feed levels. You can program the UAV to bark at sheep in order to get them moving.

The drone can improve herding efficiency, and the UAV allows for farm dogs to fly overhead without cows getting startled. This is especially important for mothers who are protective of their calves.

These droving, herding and other techniques are being reproduced in the UK. Harper Adams University conducted tests to determine how they round up sheep for their daily food on a small farm near Shropshire.

The sheep became used to the drone “barking” at their ears, and they soon learned that the mysterious flying object would not harm them. To reinforce the behavior of feeding, the herd was “trained” to associate the UAV’s sound with feed time.

Canadian ranchers are making use of DJI drones to herd their cattle. They are equipped with DJI zenmuse XT2 thermal cameras and visual cameras to spot cows in open fields and under forest canopy canopies. In addition, the drone can be used for herd counting and thermal imaging.

Drones For Monitoring The Pastures

The drones can also be used to monitor pastures. High-resolution imagery and digital cameras provide excellent information about ground vegetation conditions. They can also track changes over time.

Farmers in Croatia used a Parrot Drone for visualizing pasture conditions using digital and infrared imagery.

Certainly, drones can monitor pastures in terms of maintenance, production, and viability for maintaining herds and flocks of livestock. UAVs can monitor drought conditions and assess watering areas. UAVs can detect heavily grazed areas and thickets with thistles, which could cause damage to animals and move the flock should this be required.

Prevent Rustling Problems In The Wild

The UK’s sheep rustling problem is growing and is costing farmers millions. To detect thefts of valuable flocks, police have started flying drones both daytime and night.

It is never easy to stay one step ahead of criminal gangs that target farms. Drone tech allows livestock managers and authorities to identify thefts in progress and to identify the culprits. It captures images of the rustlers at work and the vehicles they use to transport their woolly stolen hauls.

We hear the phrase “Drones for Good” a lot. And livestock management is an underdeveloped sector for UAV deployment. This has all changed in recent years. It seems that rotors will soon be as common in rural areas as the barks, baas, and moos that have dominated the agricultural landscape over the centuries.

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