Drones for Livestock Management
In the crop production business, drones are quickly gaining momentum. Farmers are exploring various use cases of drones to scout for weeds, pests, and nutrient deficiencies. The adoption might be slow in the cattle production industry, but drones for livestock management are definitely going to be on the rise. The use cases of drones helping ranchers see and manage a ranch from miles apart are very appealing. Here are a few use cases and cool things drones can do:
One of the interesting use cases of drones for cattle farming is that farmers can remotely check water sources and know where the cattle are in some of the remote canyons.
Another benefit of drones for cattle ranching is the ability to spot heavily grazed areas and thickets of thistles and cedar trees without having to drive the entire pasture. The images taken by drones can be used to decide where to build fences and where to move cattle.
The beef industry is exploring the use case of herding cattle with drones. Farmers can use a drone with a camera to locate the herd in the pastures and move it. This helps reduce the time it takes to move cattle. When you hover a drone over the herd, they will move away from the sound of the drone. They are not scared of the sound, but just gently move.
Many a times, some cattle move away from the herd and get out of a pasture. It’s important to locate them and get them back with other animals. You can use the drone to make the stray animals move in the direction you want them to go and join back the heard. This is very useful in areas it’s hard to get to.
The industry is currently exploring many other use cases for cattle management. One of the use cases is to use drones for cattle monitoring. For example, drones can be used to check cows for health condition. This way, ranchers wouldn’t have to be out in the pasture all the time. The drone would do it.
Cattle counting drones can be used as a tool for handling the daily herd count (Also see: Cattle Counting Software). Programmable drones can use Computer Vision based learning models to implement animal detection and tracking.
By placing cattle drones to provide consistent information from remote areas, farmers can get a 360° view of their land. These drones can be used to spot trespassing hunters and other illegal activities that farmers would never see otherwise. The drones also help investigate potential disturbances, reducing the response time and keeping farm personnel safer.
Automating Programmable Drones for Livestock Management
Drone automation can save ranchers many trips and man-hours. For example, an autonomous drone can fly and shoot video on its own on a preset route and schedule. However, this is a very simple use-case of drone automation. Tech entrepreneurs are exploring ways to completely automate cattle management, monitoring, and movement using programmable drones.
One way to automate the process is putting an RFID tag on each animal which can then be used to accurately read and locate each animal with a drone. Using computer aided vision, a programmable drone can detect a stray animal in a pasture and move it towards the rest of the herd. Moreover, if a rancher wants to locate a particular animal and check its condition, he would just have to type in an RFID number and the drone will go out and find it on the range.
Similarly, a programmable drone can help with rotational grazing. Under rotational grazing, only one portion of pasture is grazed at a time while the remainder of the pasture rests. A drone can be programmed to detect which portion of the pasture has been grazed and accordingly move the herd to the next available paddock. Timing of the rotation can be adjusted according to the growth stage of the forage so that the same paddock isn’t used for grazing while it’s allowing forage plants to renew energy reserves, rebuild vigor, deepen their root system, and give long-term maximum production.
Finding the Best Drone for Cattle Farming
There are various options available in the market with different specifications and feature sets. However, for cattle ranchers, here are a few things that should be considered when buying a drone for checking cattle:
1) Drones for livestock management must have decent battery power. About a half hour of flight time is usually enough to see fences, ponds, mineral feeders, and cow location in a pasture. However, if your requirements are advanced and if you need more aerial time, look for drones with more battery power.
2) It should have a high-end camera for capturing video and images. Since you would want to see a bird-eye view of your herd or pasture, the camera should be good enough to give you quality video and images.
3) The drone should be able to withstand 25 mph winds. Before you make a purchase, do check how windy it gets in your area. If your drone can’t withstand high winds, you may end up losing or damaging your drone.
4) The companion mobile or tablet app that comes with the drone should be user-friendly and have features to manage operations associated with ranch management.