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Texting Cows

31 August 2011 | Posted in Nature Reserves

Author Graeme Lyons

British white cow with GPS collar / Graeme Lyons

It surprised me yesterday that I had not yet written a blog about this Trust project before so here goes. I went to Ebernoe yesterday where we are grazing the Common this year with a small number of British White Cattle. As we are keen to find out where they are going within the grazing area, we are using GPS technology to track the animals. The difference to the collars we have been using for the past two and a half years though is that they include SIM cards that text the data. They text the data directly to Germany of course, where the manufacturers of the collars then email the raw data to my work desktop. I can then pull out the xy co-ordinates and plot them in GIS mapping software. So, it doesn't happen in real time, there are delays in the data coming through, partly due to the strength of the mobile phone signal (which at Ebernoe is poor). The neat thing with the collars though is that they store up the data and transmit it when the animals enter into an area of coverage. This particular collar that we use at Ebernoe is on Pay-As-You-Go Vodafone as it was the best deal we could get in that area.

We have three of these collars that we can deploy on up to three herds at any one time (we only need to put one collar on one animal within a herd as they mostly stay close together). The large unit at the bottom of the collar is the battery pack and the smaller unit at the top houses the GPS and SIM card while the antenna is concealed within the collar itself. I tend to check the data first thing on a Monday morning. I'll try and get some of the maps produced by the data; it is remarkable how similar the maps look in different years even when using different individuals. Here is a link to short video I did for the BBC two years ago.

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