GPS cow-tags to make cowboys obsolete -

Cowboy hats and barbed wire could be going out of style in the American west, thanks to solar powered GPS sensor tags designed to for livestock.

Dean M. Anderson, a USDA scientist whose research focuses on virtual fencing, has come up with a system that could allow farmers to keep track of their livestock using GPS tags, and they look like oversized novelty dog collars. The technology allows farmers to manage where their cattle graze, while Facebooking at the same time. It also makes farms more environmentally sustainable, as it could render huge barbed wire fences obsolete.

"It never made sense to me that we use static tools to manage dynamic resources," Anderson told Venue. "You learn from day one in all of your ecology classes and animal science classes that you are dealing with multiple dynamic systems that you are trying to optimize in relationship to each other."

Anderson believes smart GPS tags are simply a more effective way of managing livestock than static fences. Virtual fences programmed to best suit farmers' needs at any given moment are the way to go. They can be changed in no time, at no cost whatsoever.

However, Anderson's system is still not on the market and there is plenty of work to do. One challenge is power supply, although Anderson believes a combination of solar panels and high tech batteries should do the trick. The other problem is working out how to stimulate cattle and keep them from crossing the virtual fence. Dog training collars rely on a mild electric shock, preceded by an audio warning, but different species respond to stimuli quite differently.

The system could be applied to all sorts of livestock, which means it is only a matter of time before someone mislabels their horses as calves.