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Biotech Science

Virtual Fence Could Modernize the Old West 216

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the too-strange-for-a-topic-icon dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "For more than a century, ranchers in the West have kept cattle in place with fences of barbed wire, split wood and, more recently, electrified wires. Now, animal science researchers with the Department of Agriculture are working on a system that will allow cowboys to herd their cattle remotely via radio by singing commands and whispering into their ears and tracking movements by satellite and computer. A video of Dean Anderson, a researcher at the USDA's Jornada Experimental Range at Las Cruces, NM., shows how he has built radios that attach to an animal's head that allow a person at the other end to issue a range of commands — gentle singing, sharp commands, or a buzz like a bee or snake — to get the cattle to move where one wants them to. Anderson says it would cost $900 today to put a radio device on one head of cattle, but he says costs will fall and the entire herd wouldn't have to be outfitted, just the 'leaders.' Much of the research has focused on how cattlemen can identify which cattle in their herds are the ones that the others follow."
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Virtual Fence Could Modernize the Old West

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  • Re-adapted Tech (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slifox (605302) * on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:32AM (#25272357)

    "working on a system that will allow cowboys to herd their cattle remotely via radio by singing commands and whispering into their ears and tracking movements by satellite and computer"

    Looks like they're finally re-adapting that technology once reserved only for our most esteemed government leaders ;)

    The animal trials usually come before the human trials -- but I don't know if I'd consider any of our current heads of state still "human" ...

    • Congressmen==cattle. That's cute.

      Even when you whisper in their ear, they don't listen. I heard my Congressman say he had 80-to-1 calls telling him to say "no" to the bailout. Well he listened the first time, but ignored the voters on the second time, and passed the bill with a yes vote.

      Considering the DOW just dropped ~500 points, back to 2003 levels, maybe the Congressman should have listened to his people. They knew the bailout wouldn't do diddly-squat.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:34AM (#25272379)

    I used to work with cattle on my uncle's farm when I was a kid. They are dumb animals. They do dumb things. Anytime you try to move them, they do all kinds of stupid shit. I've seen them get "trapped" in fencing, in ditches, even in bushes and trees. So, here we have a system, which costs $900 for every cow it's put on (and that "just put it on the leaders" line sounds like wishful thinking to me). If it has some sort of mechanical malfunction or loses signal in some mountain pass, you could lose a lot of cattle. If you move the cattle and some of them get trapped in a ditch/underbursh/etc., you could lose a lot of cattle (since no actual person will be there to see it and help them). And if the cows simply ignore or get confused by the signal you're sending them, you could lose a lot of cattle. And every cow lost is a lot of money lost.

    Basically, this seems to me like a very high tech, expensive way to so something that's much more effectively and economically done the old-fashioned way. Ranch-hands are relatively cheap, smart, and effective. And handful of good cowboys can move a surprisingly large herd.

    This new system, by contrast, sounds unreliable, dumb, and VERY expensive. When you're talking huge herds, $900 a head is a LOT of money. Even $900 a "leader" is a LOT of money. Certainly, its tracking function would be useful to keep an eye on the herd (but I think they already have those sorts of systems already). But the idea that you can move cattle remotely with the push of a button, with no actual cowboys on hand, seems to me like the dream of someone who has never actually worked with the smelly, stupid things.

    • by magarity (164372) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:39AM (#25272443)

      You've taken it way too seriously - in reality, the whole 'cattle herd' thing is an allegory for political parties. Read it again and it'll make sense this time.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:42AM (#25272497) Journal
      Uh, as someone forced to labor around these animals, I second your dubiousness. I have stared into the void that is the eye of a bovine creature and the void also stared back.

      From trying to help one get untangled from a barbed wire fence to watching one fry itself on an electrified fence to watching one stare confoundedly as a vehicle killed it at 55 mph to ... did I mention you can't lead them down a set of stairs?

      Well, now stealing the cattle is not only going to be easier but there's going to be bonus cattle where not only do you get the $800-$1000 a head but you also get a $900 device!
      • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:01AM (#25272699) Homepage

        How much bovine stupidity can be attributed to human preferences? Have we bred cattle to make them more stupid? I'm sure wild bison and buffaloes are a lot sharper. I expect it's our fault; when did you last send back a steak in a restaurant because it wasn't intelligent enough?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          I'm sure wild bison and buffaloes are a lot sharper.

          Citation desperately needed.

        • by superbondbond (718459) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:36AM (#25273067)
          I'm not so sure wild bison were any smarter. Read about the historic buffalo jumps that the native Americans used in hunting...

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_jump [wikipedia.org]

          • I'm not so sure wild bison were any smarter. Read about the historic buffalo jumps that the native Americans used in hunting...

            What? Never been stuck in traffic before?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by lysergic.acid (845423)

            i'm not sure what that's supposed to prove. if you panic a large crowd of people by say, threatening their life, you could herd them towards a cliff too. such tactics have been used in many historic battles [battlefieldbiker.com] to corner enemy troops. it's probably one of the more obvious tactics for using terrain to your advantage.

            when a large group of individuals/herd of bison/whatever are running from danger, they tend to move as a single mass. this may be an evolutionarily learned trait since in the wild, if a predator is c

          • A few months ago there was an article in the NYTimes about the decline in various African cattle breeds as they're getting replaced by Holsteins and other First-World agribusiness cattle. The African cows were big-horned ornery creatures that are adapted for their environments; the Holsteins are weaker, more disease-prone, don't get along as well on the local vegetation - but produce about 10 times as much milk, which means that a small farmer can produce enough surplus income to send his kids to school,

        • by Arthur B. (806360) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:39AM (#25273099)

          I don't even think they were bred for stupidity, it's just that they were bred with no preference for stupidity or intelligence, it's irrelevant to reproductive success. The rest is just natural genetic drift.

          I'm looking at you, humanity.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mr_mischief (456295)

            There was a time when intelligence of human children and more so of their parents weighed heavily in humans reaching reproductive age. Then we became civilized enough and technologically assisted enough that it makes very little difference.

            Of course, being mostly geeks, we probably don't want to go back to when keen natural eyesight, strong muscles, fast nerves, muscle coordination, and agreeable stomachs also weighed heavily in survival.

            • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... rg minus painter> on Monday October 06, 2008 @01:39PM (#25275237) Homepage

              Speak for yourself, weakling :P All kidding aside, there's no reason a geek shouldn't at least be moderately fit. It's as easy as parking far out in the parking lot instead of right next to the door, and ordering a nice sandwich with veggies and such on it instead of pizza.

              Athleticism isn't purely genetic... it takes practice and work, just like every other skill.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by rrohbeck (944847)

                Amen.

                Remember the old quote (I think it's from Arnold himself): Being in shape is 60% nutrition, 30% exercise and 10% genetics.

                You forgot to mention soda. It's the #1 reason for geeks (and everybody else) to be fat and unhealthy.

          • docility (Score:3, Interesting)

            by zogger (617870)

            They are bred for docility and for large and fast weight gain and huge milk production. Docility is number one though, you can't do squat with a really wild cow (total range cows excluded, they are all mostly wild) I have an eastern perspective on this, and a small herd that are traditional barbed wire fenced in. I have one now, pretty wild and suspicious, takes me forever to lure it into the barn/corral in order to deal with it, like de worming, etc.. The rest, tame enough, come when they are called-litera

        • by AhtirTano (638534)
          So what do you suggest? Tear down the fences, expose them to the dangers of the real world off the ranch, and let natural selection raise their intelligence again? I'm not sure ranchers would be able to afford the kind of loss that would take; and we probably wouldn't be able to afford the steak anymore either.
        • by Noexit (107629)

          Native Americans used to slaughter wild bison by herding them off of cliffs. I think that counts as "dumb".

        • by ari_j (90255) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:28AM (#25273697)
          Actually, we breed them to be docile. Extreme docility and stupidity seem to go hand in hand. I would venture that 100% of the delta-stupidity of a cow beyond that of a similar wild animal (perhaps a bison or a wild boar) can be attributed to human preferences.
        • by alienmole (15522)
          That's why I don't eat steak. If you're going to eat meat, you may as well make it intelligent meat. As Professor Farnsworth said when eating dolphin, "Pass me the speech center of the brain!"
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:54AM (#25273263)

        I have stared into the void that is the eye of a bovine creature and the void also stared back.

        That sounds like my last trip to McDonalds. It's bovines serving bovines to bovines. Bovines all the way down.

      • by dilvish_the_damned (167205) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:59AM (#25273333) Journal

        did I mention you can't lead them down a set of stairs?

        If I had a dime for every time I hid a cow in my bedroom...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        The problem is the modern cow has been bred strictly for size,which just boosts the stupid by a factor of ten. As for cows themselves they really didn't use to be THAT stupid. When I was a kid I use to help my neighbor check on and feed his small herd of milkers along with his bull,and when I'd hope the fence along with my friends who had never come with me they would freeze and look like they were going to shit themselves. When I would ask what was wrong they say "Bull....BIG Bull....BIG horned Bull!" and

      • by Deagol (323173) on Monday October 06, 2008 @03:54PM (#25276745) Homepage
        As someone who's owned family milk cows, I say you're being a tad harsh. Our cows were not only personable, but exhibited downright devious behavior. They learn quickly. They'll follow verbal commands. They recognize specific people and respond to their preferences to those people. Granted, they were both Jersey cows, which have a reputation for being a bit more clever than the average Holstein (and I would assume the typical Angus or Hereford that I see being run around my neck of the Utah open range).

        Sure, cows are big clumsy animals, both by nature and due to breeding. But they're certainly not totally devoid of presence and thought, as you seem to imply. I didn't just labor near these animals, but I hand milked them daily. People who have hand-milked animals like cows and goats know there is a bond formed between them and the animal. They know full well that they could kill you in an instant, yet they recognize the give-and-take relationship they're part of.

        As for the stairs... cows have little to no depth perception. That's why you can paint cattle guards across a road and it'll be as effective as a real cattle guard. They're not dumb, but self-serving. You of all people should know this. Bovines are known to be more sure-footed than horses, which are skittish creatures bordering on neurotic. They simply won't put their feet down where they're uncertain of the consequences (except when they're in a panic). That's why oxen are preferred as beasts of burden over horses, at least in countries where people aren't too proud to have cattle perform such work.

        Still, I think that this idea is rather dumb. People who range cattle here in the West aren't making a killing as it is, and devices like these solve a problem that doesn't exist, in a very expensive way. Cheap radio beacons for tracking down cattle that have been ranging in the wooded mountains for the summer? Maybe. Probably not. But remote controlling cattle is something only a foolish marketing drone would come up with.

    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:48AM (#25272553) Homepage Journal

      Perhaps. But you sound like a whole lot of people whose jobs have since been replaced by automation.

      Seriously.

      For example, it was once said that vinyl-cutting CAD/CAM systems would never replace the journeyman sign painter (yes, signs used to be painted by hand!). You could NEVER do all the stuff that a guy with a brush and some paint could do.

      Yet, today, you pretty much can. There are very few people left who actually know how to layout and paint a sign by hand like an old pro. Most sign companies don't even have a hand lettering person on staff anymore.

      This might be in its infancy, but it is possible -- even likely -- that one day, something along these lines might actually be made to work well enough to replace experienced ranch hands.

      If a rancher can even eliminate the need for 1 or 2 ranch hands with this technology, in the long-run, he'll save himself a bundle of money.

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:56AM (#25272643)

        I'm not saying it's impossible for a system to one day replace cowboys, just that *this* almost certainly isn't that system. Some things are not only hard to automate, but largely impractical (which is why farmers still hire humans for such tasks as fruit-picking, harvesting lettuce, etc. even though it should be theoretically possible to automate the process).

        And if you think ranch-hands make a huge "bundle of money" compared to what it would cost to outfit and maintain a herd full of transmitters at $900 a head, you are WAY out of touch with how much ranch-hands make.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          And if you think ranch-hands make a huge "bundle of money" compared to what it would cost to outfit and maintain a herd full of transmitters at $900 a head, you are WAY out of touch with how much ranch-hands make.

          Notice I said "in the long run". At first, a rancher might start with outfitting the 'leaders' amd try the tech out. Or they might try it on some small herd on a contained plot of land, or something like that. I don't know much about ranching, honestly. But what I am saying is that that's kind of how things got started in the sign industry -- the CAD/CAM systems that came out at first really couldn't replace a sign painter. And they were expensive. It cost the annual salary of like 3-4 journeyman sig

          • The difference is one was dealing with paint (inanimate substance) one is dealing with cows (dumb animals), anything dealing with inanimate objects is relatively easy and cheap to automate, anything dealing with animate objects (or irregular objects) is difficult and expensive to automate

            Farm hands, fruit pickers, etc. are cheap, the machine that can do their job is unreliable and expensive - come back when the machine is cheaper and as reliable as a farm hand and I will get my AI computer to hire the robot

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Fishead (658061)

              I think part of the problem isn't just the dumb cow (we had a hobby farm when I was a kid), it is the rugged terrain.

              If you REALLY wanted to automate your cattle herding process, a good first step would be to flatten your land. Take out all those dangerous canyons, trees, fallen logs, boulders, and gopher holes. If your acreage is in Saskatchewan, most of the work is done for you if it is in the Peace River BC area, a bit more work. Here you might want to employ an army of robots with shovels and dynamit

            • The difference is one was dealing with paint (inanimate substance) one is dealing with cows (dumb animals), anything dealing with inanimate objects is relatively easy and cheap to automate, anything dealing with animate objects (or irregular objects) is difficult and expensive to automate

              Wasn't it not that long ago that we had a article here about automated milking machines, and no longer having to get up early in the morning to milk the herd?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Swizec (978239)
            The only professions safe from automation are programming and different kinds of designing. At least until we get creative computers, but that's not very likely in the foreseeable future.
        • by Muad'Dave (255648)

          ... farmers still hire humans for such tasks as ... harvesting lettuce ...

          I swear the recent e. coli outbreaks from tainted lettuce and spinach are from the distinct lack of toilet paper in the fields.

      • There are very few people left who actually know how to layout and paint a sign by hand like an old pro.

        Lots of Brazilians disagree :-) Last time I was in Brazil for my work, the whole city was full of hand-painted signs. It was actually very nice to see, and often done very professionally.

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        There's a fundamental difference between painting a sign and herding cattle. One deals with an inanimate object, the other deals a stupid living creature.

      • by socsoc (1116769)
        You have an interesting point, but having precision in sign making via CAD/CAM isn't really the same as introducing technology devices to herd leaders.

        Cattle don't require that level of precision and my limited experience at friends' ranches has shown me that they truly are dumb animals.
        My favorite question was "Why do you have fences around that sinkhole?" "Cause they'll walk into it and fall to their death"
        No wonder painted cattle guards on roads work...
      • by Xtravar (725372)

        I think we're going about this all wrong. We're trying to mechanize nature.

        What we should be doing is making the cows' nature more convenient, rather than trying to control it.

        We should genetically modify cows so that they don't have legs or organs. They should just be growing pieces of meat that don't move. Then we should fill up skyscrapers with them!

      • by mysticgoat (582871) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:58AM (#25273301) Homepage Journal

        Please re-read the the posts you are responding to and pay attention to the content.

        Persons with expertise on the ground in handling cattle are saying that moving the herd is only one component of the job, and one of the less difficult components, at that. Protecting the animals from external threats and from their internal inabilities to cope with common environmental traps are economic necessities.

        Until there is a remote way of intervening when a cow worth several hundred dollars gets itself crosswise to a barbed wire fence, being able to remotely direct the herd offers no benefits. These parts of the job will require a sophisticated all terrain robot capable of identifying a cow in trouble, immobilizing the large animal without hurting it, cutting and repairing barbed wire, delivering an antitetanus jab, and so on. And then you might as well save a bunch of money on the cowhead radio receivers by just putting a loudspeaker system in the robot.

        Yeah, at some point technology might replace the cowboy and his horse, but radiohead cows are not going to do it. And robotics has a long ways to go before a person who knows how to safely immobilize a ton of living hamburger with a few feet of rope is in danger of losing his job.

        To put this in perspective: a little before Fulton figured out how to make a steam engine small enough to fit inside a boat, there were some persons that history has forgotten who were experimenting with steam powered bicycles. Radiohead cows sound an awful lot like steam powered bicycles. The developers might be shooting their arrows more or less in the right direction, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any actual target anywhere near where their arrows are going.

        • I've spent some time around cowboys while they were working. I respect what they do. They have a very difficult and demanding job. However, they didn't seem the kind of people who were well paid. The rancher, yes, but not the cowpuncher. What is the anual cost of a cowboy, his materials, and transportation (not just the horse, but the trucks and other gear they need).

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        And technology makes the cows smarter... how?
      • by ari_j (90255) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:33AM (#25273735)
        The thing is that full-time ranch hands are not needed at most normal-size ranches. Where I grew up, it worked more like this. You need to round up your cattle about twice a year (branding and slaughter). This can be accomplished with four to ten people, depending on the terrain and size of your pastures. You also have to actually do the branding (which includes neutering, dehorning, etc.), once a year. You have several neighboring ranches, all of which also need to do round-up about twice a year and branding one time a year. Their days don't have to coincide with yours. So what you do is help each other out, exchanging labor for labor.

        I don't see this technology being remotely economically viable for quite some time. That doesn't mean I am opposed to people developing it on their own dime, though.
      • Yup. Sad.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I wonder if all the breeding that was done to get the best cuts of meat didn't bother to check if the offspring were dumber than their predecessors.
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        My uncle use to say that that the dumber the cow, the more milk it produced.
        • by Yvan256 (722131)

          Of course. Dumb cows can never remember if they've been milked or not, so they just keep on producing milk, just in case.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Hey if they're stupid enough they might even be happy to be eaten.

        Is there anything unethical or immoral about eating a cow that wants to be eaten?
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:15AM (#25272849) Journal

      While your reasoning seems sound, it fails in real life. I have worked in the telcomms industry for some time and have personally witnessed the use of pagers in waterproof wrappings, taped to a collar around a couple of cows, for the express purpose of telling them when it is milking time. Inside of 2 weeks the cows were reliably answering the pager call. Given the right motivation, even dumb cows can be convinced to do the 'right thing' most of the time. Using some technology to reduce the amount of manpower required to convince them is nothing but good.

      Pagers, BTW, would not cost $900 per cow, and empirical evidence suggests that only the lead cows really need the pager around their necks.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by camelrider (46141)

        I don't see a lot of cattle since I moved to Alaska, but years ago I grew up among a lot of them. Dairy cattle fifty years ago surely didn't need a pager to tell them when to come in to be milked! They were there without fail twice a day, most of them even entering the barn and poking their heads into their accustomed stantion.

        If an individual didn't show up on time, you'd better go find what's the matter with her.

        • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:14AM (#25273547) Journal

          Just as a note, the dairyman that I had to deal with wanted to mod the pager for louder beeps and longer battery life. He had enough cows to overwhelm his milking barn and took them in turns from different fields. The pagers made a huge difference for him. We did the mods - encased it in a 'waterproof' project case, ran battery and speaker connections external from the pager, and all was good. He got about 1 month battery life and effective management of the cows at milking time. I extended my trip to watch the cows come in for milking several times. One of the many odd stories I've collected over the years.

      • While your reasoning seems sound, it fails in real life.

        While your anecdote is amusing, it fails in real life. The topic under discussion is controlling beef cattle on the open range, not summoning milk cattle to a fixed point.

    • I'm surprised these things are $900 - compare them with the "invisible fence" dog collars, which are about $100/receiver (plus the wiring in the ground, which is the more expensive par.) These may be a bit fancier, and while you want the batteries to last longer, you can put much heavier batteries on a cow than a dog.

      It sounds to me like what they're really able to do is make open-range grazing more possible - the West was mostly unfenced until farmers started winning out and forcing ranchers to keep their

    • I used to work with cattle on my uncle's farm when I was a kid. They are dumb animals. They do dumb things. Anytime you try to move them, they do all kinds of stupid shit. I've seen them get "trapped" in fencing, in ditches, even in bushes and trees.

      I grew up around cows and many other animals. They are not dumb animals. Read the book Animals in Translation [amazon.com] where the author talks specifically about why cattle behave as they do.

      I agree though, the system is stupid and can't compete with what a few good cowboys can do.

  • Rustlin' (Score:4, Funny)

    by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:39AM (#25272437) Journal
    So what happens when a posse of rustlers comes along with a roll of tin foil?
    • So what happens when a posse of rustlers comes along with a roll of tin foil?

      Screw hustling the cows, at $900 a pop for the radios, why not just take *them*?

      • The price of a full grown steer is far higher than that.

        I look forward to hacker cattle rustlers or even worse, armies of hijacked cows terrorizing the west. I hope the Dept of Homeland In^H^HSecurity is looking into the likely scenario of a terrorist taking over our cattle!

    • Re:Rustlin' (Score:4, Funny)

      by Idiomatick (976696) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:56AM (#25272635)

      You are right, we should be mounting laser cannons on them.

  • by andy1307 (656570) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:40AM (#25272463)
    We need something like this for our congresscritters so we can whisper commands into their ears..you know, like "Don't vote for the bailout".
    • by KGIII (973947) *

      ;) I suspect you have the thinking backwards. They want these so that they can put them around the necks of the citizens to keep us controlled and herded at a lesser cost.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Dianne Feinstein got 90000 calls against the bailout and she still voted for the bailout. Those weren't whispers.

      It only works if you make sure you punish them by not voting them back in.
  • Suddenly (Score:5, Funny)

    by Technopaladin (858154) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:48AM (#25272563)
    All these Bluetooth wearing peoples existence becomes clear...they were the prototype for Cattle management. Truly the work has flipped upside down. I would love to see Rattlesnake, Bee, growling pumped into those things while people cruised around.
  • I got a laugh from "Much of the research has focused on how cattlemen can identify which cattle in their herds are the ones that the others follow." I have also worked around cows in the family beef operation, and all one has to do to identify the "leaders" is watch the cows.
  • Imagine a big, pissed-off herd taking Bombay or any other city in India. Who would dare to stop them?

  • by PinkyDead (862370) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:05AM (#25272741) Journal

    I wanna play World of Warcow.

  • from observing the modern American political process

  • Mooooo (Score:4, Funny)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:07AM (#25272763) Homepage Journal
    Moooo!
    - Please, come back to the stable!
    Moooo!
    - OK, you force me to use brute force!
    Moooo ... bzzzzzz ... MOOOOOO!
    - I told you!
  • I can see it now, herds of High on Mushroom teenagers running around the fields with the gear on their heads.

    Wouldnt you ?

    This is JUST BEGGING for a New Beavis and Butthead episode......
  • Much of the research has focused on how cattlemen can identify which cattle in their herds are the ones that the others follow."
    .

    Cattle will follow the lead cow who takes them where they want to go. Therein is the flaw to the plan. If the identified leader follows the commands of the cowboys and goes where the other cattle do not want to go, will the other cattle then continue to follow that leader?

    • No! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Camaro (13996) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:40AM (#25273805)

      I work with cattle for a living, both my own and helping neighbors. I see it over and over. There are definitely leaders in a herd but there are also cattle that will not follow unless you get behind them and get them moving in the right direction. Maybe there's a slow one who stepped in a hole yesterday. Maybe the calf has picked that moment to get a snack and the mother stops for it to suck. Or it's the nervous cow that heads for the hills at the first sign of a roundup. Hell, there's even leader cows who decide to go different directions. Cattle like routine and if they don't usually go a certain direction they don't really feel like going there. Many times I've had a herd approach an open gate and stop. After a few minutes of trying to get them to go through they scatter. But often the first place they head when I start trying to round them up is where they go to drink water because it's what they do every day.

  • Singing? I can see it now: iTunes for cows! Or worse,
    ""Are you losing cows due to dropped calls to your bovine herd? Download your cattle's favorite ringtones from the Mozy Network! Mozy: Less deadspots than the other cattle network!"
  • ...conducive to well functioning electronic equipment.

    Anyone else smell (other than the cows) a technical maintenance nightmare?

    Although if you can get them going in a conga line or spell out words, it might be worth it. Make a good halftime show.

  • Laugh now, but when your iTunes music store has a "cattle herding tunes" section on it, where you can download rattlesnake sounds and cowboy whispers, it'll be a goldmine with the farming community!

  • by Pedrito (94783)

    Shit, at $900, just give them cell phones on a collar, FFS. Staple some blue tooth earpieces onto their ears and you're golden. I doubt the receivers they're using are any less likely to give them brain cancer.

  • How about a GPS-enabled shock collar? Or maybe a GPS- and flux gate magnetometer-enabled ear shocker that'll not only know when they've strayed out of bounds but will know which ear to zap to get them pointed in the right direction!
  • So funny, a friend and I were bouncing emails back and forth over the use of small GPS chips after seeing an article on GPS enabled pet collars. The Desire to Profit was in mind... we envisioned a cool web site with all sorts of interesting images of cattle being manipulated by cool technology,etc. Anyway, my joke/rant from 2003:

    The Digital Ranch(tm)

    "Wireless Ranch(tm)"... (Web site and hardware in development, pricing to be announced)

    So, you have your herd of cattle, bison, horses, sheep, whatever- you i

  • I'd love to see maddox write a follow up to his article on the segway [thebestpag...iverse.net] in regards to this "new method of herding.

    Barbed wire is working fine. It uses abundant resources, and does not require a special chemical composition to continue doing its job. (i've run into century old barbed wire in forests which have since been designated protected wilderness)

    We don't need poltergeist machines to whisper things in cow's ears.

    We CERTAINLY don't want to make the simple control of livestock dependent on a 100% uptime o

  • So.....a DDOS attack would be, maybe, commands given to guide said herd of cattle onto the nearby stretch of Interstate 5 in the middle of the night?

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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