Virtual Insanity

Conversations | 11th June 2024 | By Chris Lawlor

Independent Contributor

Q – What can farmers use in NZ and Tasmania but not Victoria?

A – Virtual fencing

My staff put virtual fencing collars on our cows last August in the middle of calving, and we

  • Finished using standards and reels.
  • Used no tail paint for mating.
  • Have no one at shed before 5am, as the cows come in themselves.

This is literally the ‘best thing since sliced bread’, even my phone and social media addicted Gen Z geeky kids like farming now!

We have 8 mobs of cows on Kale and Fodder beet for the winter and the boys shift them on their iPhones while having a cuppa in the morning, then jump in a tractor and drive around filling their feeders with hay and straw with no fences to drive over.

Below are iPhone screenshots showing the 8 mobs, and a close up where you can see the individual cows as blue dots, the thin blue line is their next break and behind them we have back fenced to avoid more pugging but left trough access.


This link shows how it looks on farm…..lucky we got a good day

What’s the downside?

Cost, approximately $180/cow/year and the collars are a real prick to put on and take off.

What is the Victorian greenies problem with it?

Initially to train the cows the collar (solar powered) can give them a small electric pulse, but it very quickly changes to noise alerts……animal health is improved with deviations in activity alerting staff to metabolic or lameness issues.

Currently the $180/cow is justified by

  • Labour savings (1 FTE on 700 cows)
  • Animal health improvements (mainly minimal lameness with no one pushing herds on bikes).
  • Automated and reliable heat detection.

We estimate the cost at 40c/kgMS (Milk Solids) and these 3 points are about that in savings. Other expected benefits and supplier claims are that we will grow 1t DM/ha more grass through back fencing and improved grass residuals, the package includes satellite pasture reading and the associated feed wedge/planner.

We are unable to confirm these benefits yet (logically we expect too, however results are closely correlated to the engagement of the human running the App). We do see the cows on winter crop calmer and putting on weight quicker, in part due to shifting them morning and evening, it looks like they will be about 0.2 BCS (Body Condition Score) better for calving in August.

I will just qualify my excitement by saying that whilst morale has improved, cashflow has not….yet. Our basic FWE are still $6/kgMS and debt servicing $1.50/kgMS, so at $8/kgMS there ain’t a lot left. If we do grow the extra 1t of grass/ha this should equate to about 80MS/ha or 24,000MS or $200,000 more income.

Big picture…..the Gen Z social media nerds living in their virtual world wanna take over the farm now!



  • Virtual Fencing
  • Technology