GPS helping track cattle movement, compaction

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SALEM, Ohio – Researchers in Illinois have taken GPS technology one step further. At a University of Illinois farm, even the cows come equipped with GPS.
It’s all part of a system that rotates corn and cattle on the same land. Illinois scientists are analyzing this integrated system to help growers squeeze as much productivity out of their land as possible. And tracking cattle movement with GPS plays one key part in the study.
Rotating crops, cattle. This integrated farming system has been established on the Dudley Smith Farm near Pana, Ill., where researchers rotate grain crops with a herd of approximately 60 beef cattle on the same land.
Because anecdotal evidence suggests that cattle tend to walk the same path to and from various locations, agricultural and biological engineer Luis Rodriguez is using GPS tracking to analyze the possibility of soil compaction caused by the animals.
“We’re outfitting the cattle with GPS to better track their movement,” Rodriguez said.
“We anticipate being able to predict where compaction may occur on the field, since soil compaction can have an impact on subsequent corn yield.”
Waste not. Manure management is another consideration, and the GPS technology lets Rodriguez and his team track which parts of the fields are getting more than their fair share of waste.
Since the animals are loitering by the fence lines in the rotational grazing operation, the manure is not being distributed evenly over the field, Rodriguez said.
Researchers hope to use GPS data to study and introduce new control schemes to more effectively manage the movement of the animals.
– Andrea Zippay

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