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Virtual Fence Could Modernize the Old West 216

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."

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. -- Dr. Johnson