December 6, 2023


Develop Technology For The Connected World

Satellite engineering makes virtual grazing areas in Epping forest | Environment

4 min read

Epping Forest has swaths of specified land that is household to adders, grass snakes and common lizards, as properly as white admiral and purple hairstreak butterflies, and mammals such as shrews and voles that, in transform, deliver food stuff for birds of prey and owls.

Even so, lifetime for the forest’s bovine people has not been so quick. Forest team have extensive battled to avoid the cattle from roaming throughout nearby roads and twin carriageways.

cows roaming in Epping forest

Now, at past, cattle in Epping Forest know their location – many thanks to satellite engineering. The English Longhorn cows and calves that stay on the historic woodland ended up recently fitted with receivers – which look like cowbells – that can decide up GPS signals, which are then utilized to generate virtual grazing locations for the animals.

If an animal strategies the edge of its delineated place, its cowbell detects the boundary and starts off to emit a audio that rises in pitch or eventually delivers a mild electrical pulse as the animal tries to cross the boundary.

The technologies suggests the forest’s cattle can expend their time in meticulously selected spots without the need of the will need for barbed wire or electric powered fences to hold them from wandering throughout the streets bordering the previous royal forest at the northern tip of London.

The technique, pioneered by the Norwegian enterprise Nofence, has been adopted to handle the herd of 66 animals that currently graze in Epping Forest and which support manage the wellness of its 2,400 hectares (5,900 acres) of grass and woodland. Over the next couple yrs, it is hoped the method will allow for forest team to boost the herd to all around 150 animals.

“Large grazing animals like cows enable to create extremely variable habitats,” said John Phillips, the forest’s grazing and landscapes officer. “They crop again the grass and make it possible for lesser vegetation to increase. And holding the grass brief also allows animals, together with reptiles and birds to feed.”

Hundreds of cows and calves when grazed on the land under ancient legal rights that had been granted to commoners, people today who lived in a forest parish and who owned at the very least 50 percent an acre of land.

In the late 19th century, these rights arrived below pressure as land was enclosed and housing developments unfold. Protests commenced and the forest was sooner or later bought by the Metropolis of London Company and stripped of its designation as a royal forest.

It was decreed that from then on, Epping Forest would be “unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open place for the recreation and satisfaction of the people”. (The appropriate to collect wooden in Epping Forest also survives even though this is constrained to “one faggot of dead or driftwood” a day for every resident and is rarely exploited.)

The BSE crisis in 1996 led to the removal of cattle from Epping forest.
The BSE crisis in 1996 led to the elimination of cattle from Epping forest. Photograph: Mike Booth/Alamy

Commoners ended up authorized to continue on grazing cattle – even though their numbers fell all through the 20th century till the BSE disaster in 1996 led to their complete elimination from the forest.

Not long ago, cattle have been brought again, triggering the need to have for a new resolution. Fencing is not permitted in Epping Forest so at initial underground cables had been laid round the perimeter of grazing locations and cattle have been fitted with monitoring units that gave them a delicate electric shock when they attempted to cross over a cable.

“However, you experienced to dig up the cable every time you wished to shift the cattle to a new grazing location,” claimed Phillips. “In addition, you experienced to dig up the cables if they broke down or needed servicing. We required a thing extra adaptable.”

The Nofence program avoids these issues, reported Phillips. Its receivers relay the specific position, decided by GPS, of each animal in the forest. That data is then transmitted to apps on the mobile phones of forest workers. Applying these units, they can then mark out the grazing spot for every single animal on a electronic map that is stored on their telephones.

The animal’s cowbell detects if it is approaching the boundary of its grazing location and emits sounds before administering a moderate electrical pulse.

“The cow learns to affiliate the sound’s rise in pitch with the prospect of staying presented an electric powered pulse – which is no stronger than the a person it would get from an electric fence,” claimed Synne Foss Budal, basic manager of Nofence United kingdom. “As a final result, it changes path absent from the boundary.

“We can keep an eye on very specifically what a cow is accomplishing this way. We can see that it understands the variation in between the initially pitch and the very last pitch of the audio emitted, and that it is aware of particularly when a pulse is going to occur. So they time it. They change all over at the previous second so they can get the most of fresh new grass at the boundary edge,” she explained.

Crucially, these digital grazing parts can be adjusted just by altering their boundaries on a cell cellular phone application, stated Phillips. “We can make a new virtual pasture by marking it on a mobile phone although also creating a corridor that links their old pasture with their new one particular. The animals will wander down the corridor to their new grazing lands. There is no digging up of cables or knocking down fences. It is just suitable for Epping Forest.”

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