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February 8, 2013 8:41 AM   Subscribe

The Land of the Free: How Virtual Fences Will Transform Rural America (originally posted on v-e-n-u-e.com)
posted by DynamiteToast (34 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoopee, Bzzzz-ZAP
Git along little dogies
It's your misfortune
And none of my own.
posted by yoink at 9:02 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since we're going to be monitoring them with drones anyway, couldn't we find a way to eliminate the abattoir with a quick surgical strike?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:07 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jeebus.

There's a wince* inducing photo of DARPA's "RoboRat" about midway through that.

------------------
*Soul search inducing, too. I'm going out to walk the dog now. Off leash.
posted by notyou at 9:16 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jeebus.

There's a wince* inducing photo of DARPA's "RoboRat" about midway through that.

------------------
*Soul search inducing, too. I'm going out to walk the dog now. Off leash.


In the future you'll be able to do that from the comfort of your computer.

Joking aside, I agree. I was theoretically on board with neural interfaces until you see the picture of the rat with wires coming out of his head. Very unnatural.
posted by DynamiteToast at 9:22 AM on February 8, 2013


In Scotland, you're allowed to enter and cross any piece of land, regardless of the owner. Any piece of land in the country. Peaceful and nondestructive trespassing is not only legal, but encouraged.

As an American, this concept seemed completely nuts when it was first presented to me. However, so far, the law's worked out pretty well for Scotland (contrasted to America, where landowners often feel that it's well within their rights to shoot and murder trespassers).

I like the Scottish system better.
posted by schmod at 9:24 AM on February 8, 2013 [27 favorites]


GPS remote-controlled cattle will be a good way to start outsourcing pesky expensive onshore farm staff.
posted by Drastic at 9:24 AM on February 8, 2013


DynamiteToast: "Joking aside, I agree. I was theoretically on board with neural interfaces until you see the picture of the rat with wires coming out of his head. Very unnatural."

It's a prototype! We'll have it packaged in a polished ABS plastic HeadFob soon enough.
posted by boo_radley at 9:26 AM on February 8, 2013


The other thing is that the consumer-level GPS receivers I have used in my DVF™ devices do not have the capability to have the fixes corrected using DGPS, which means that the fix may actually vary from the "true" boundary by as much as the length of a three-quarter ton pick-up. That's to my benefit, because there is never an exact line where that animal is sure to be cued and hence the animal cannot match a particular stone or other environmental object with the stimulation event even if the virtual boundary is held static.

Interesting that the imprecise nature of the technology actually turns out to be an advantage.
posted by madajb at 9:33 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Here's what I mean by that. I can guarantee that, if a sound that is unknown and unpleasant to the three of us happens over on that side of the room, we're not going to go toward it. We're going to get through that door on the other side as quickly as possible."

I realize I'm not actually a cow, nor am I metaphorical cattle - but no, I'm certainly not going to go away from it and out the door as quickly as possible. Every time this has actually happened to me I've gone towards the sounds. If the sound is particularly unknown and unpleasant I may attempt to record it. If it's extremely loud I may put in earplugs that I carry everywhere and then attempt to record it. If the sound is particularly threatening and unidentifiable, I may even approach the sound with a flashlight, pocket knife or improvised weapon and the hair standing up all over, like the curious monkey that I am.

I bet this system backfires for a significant segment of cattle. I've seen plenty of cows that were deeply curious about music being played near their fields. There's quite a few videos on YouTube that show this in action.

Granted the electric shocks are much less pleasant to investigate, but maybe there are masochistic cows out there who like electricity. There are certainly humans who do.

Ok, mix in some gibberish about chaos theory and dinosaurs and some cynical bits about it all ending in tears and you'll need to call in some guy named Jeff to take over...
posted by loquacious at 9:35 AM on February 8, 2013


This is great. The area we have our cows on in is hard on fences. We had some rather wild cattle escape and they were menacing cars at night and we could not get them back because they escaped into a swamp. It was not a fun experience.

Also fences break up wildlife habitat, this would not do that, allowing deer and other wild animal populations to roam freer. Though that could be bad in the case of predators. I wonder if this could actually be used to save wolves and other predators by outfitting them with this technology to keep them away from livestock.

I can also imagine using drones to herd cattle. When I was in ag school I did a seminar on agricultural robotics and even just eight years ago things like this were unimaginable. We were worrying about crop sensors not holding up to rain. I'm also a bit excited about crop robotics- will reduce the need for back-breaking human labor (though what happens to the people who were employed in this?) and possibly pesticides and herbicides if robots can be trained to manually destroy these things.
posted by melissam at 9:41 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


As seems to be the case in fencing, a relatively straightforward technological innovation -- GPS-equipped free-range cows that can be nudged back within virtual bounds by ear-mounted stimulus-delivery devices -- has implications that could profoundly reshape our relationships with domesticated animals, each other, and the landscape.
This sounds like an interesting solution to a particular problem. The article goes into a lot of depth on the importance of responsible implementation with on-site monitoring, but it makes no mention of security--I'm picturing some kid in suburban St. Louis hacking your cow when no one is watching and treating it like a 700 lb Roomba.
posted by cardboard at 9:42 AM on February 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Great idea!

Now all they have to do is put GPS shock collars on the rustlers, predators, and hoof-and-mouth infected deer.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:45 AM on February 8, 2013


I'm picturing some kid in suburban St. Louis hacking your cow when no one is watching and treating it like a 700 lb Roomba.

Imagine sending every cow in New Mexico into Albuquerque.
posted by loquacious at 9:46 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Metaphorical cattle
posted by schmod at 9:56 AM on February 8, 2013


Countdown to this technology being applied to human beings in 3... 2... 1...
posted by localroger at 9:57 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


As an American, this concept seemed completely nuts when it was first presented to me. However, so far, the law's worked out pretty well for Scotland (contrasted to America, where landowners often feel that it's well within their rights to shoot and murder trespassers).

You know I am really, really tired of people acting like self defense laws and doctrine make the US into some kind of free fire zone. If any property owner took the kind of action you seem to think is ok they would be facing serious consequences. Castle doctrine does NOT allow you to just shoot someone who is walking across your yard. It allows you do defend yourself from someone forcibly entering your home (not your land/property). You still have to face the reasonable person test and it definitely doesn't make it ok to just shoot at trespasser indiscriminately. In the US if you are shot at when walking across open country (even if it is posted no trespassing) that is attempted murder.

There is all kinds of public access laws in the US that protect the rights of people to access publicly owned land and preserve historic uses and paths that may cross private land. and most private land owners only take action on trespassers (meaning call the authorities or tell someone to leave) when they are ACTUALLY doing damage, and this is their right for that property. I bet it is also illegal to damage anothers property in Scotland as well. I have spent my whole life enjoying the open spaces in the western US and never, ever been shot at or even threatened with a gun. This includes some incidental trespassing on private rangeland and in every case that I have talked to the landowner they were polite, cordial and even helpful and in a few cases I was invited back when hunting season came around.

The removal of barbed wire fences will be the best thing ever for wildlife and habitat restoration. Finding an animal that died in horrible ways when stuck on a fence is truly heartbreaking and saddening.
posted by bartonlong at 9:58 AM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Peaceful and nondestructive trespassing is not only legal, but encouraged.

For that matter, lawfully crossing property isn't trespassing. But I'm rambling...
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:08 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Scotland, you're allowed to enter and cross any piece of land, regardless of the owner. Any piece of land in the country.

No, you're not. See e.g., this section from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code:
Access rights do not extend to houses and gardens. In some cases, the extent of a garden might be difficult to judge. Things to look out for in judging whether an area of land close to a house is a garden or not include:

  • a clear boundary, such as a wall, fence, hedge or constructed bank, or

  • 
  • a natural boundary like a river, stream or loch;

  • 
  • a lawn or other area of short mown grass;

  • 
  • flowerbeds and tended shrubs, paving and water features;

  • 
  • sheds, glasshouses and summer houses;

  • 
  • vegetable and fruit gardens (often walled but sometimes well away from houses).



  • Some larger houses are surrounded by quite large areas of land referred to as the “policies” of the house. Parts of the policies may be intensively managed for the domestic enjoyment of the house and these will include some of the features listed above. Access rights do not extend to these intensively managed areas. The wider, less intensively managed parts of the policies, such as grassland and woodlands, whether enclosed or not, would not be classed as a garden and so access rights can be exercised.
    posted by yoink at 10:09 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


    I grew up on a huge cattle ranch in Montana (at the time, it was the largest privately-owned working ranch in the state.) Our cattle grazed until round-up time. Riding fence was a particularly boring chore--imagine doing a couple of hundred miles on horseback, just to see if the fences were still standing.
    posted by Ideefixe at 10:15 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Riding fence was a particularly boring chore--imagine doing a couple of hundred miles on horseback, just to see if the fences were still standing.

    So a week long horseback camping trip under Montana's big sky...?

    People would pay good money to do that.
    posted by notyou at 10:19 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I wonder if this could actually be used to save wolves and other predators by outfitting them with this technology to keep them away from livestock.

    My first instinct while reading this was, "but fences also exist to keep animals out." Considering that many ranchers have been aggressive wolf-hunting advocates, that wolf hunting is itself something of an industry, and that wolf hunting has some political momentum currently, I don't see this playing out too nicely when it comes down to dollars vs. wildlife advocacy. You know, it costs money to track those predators down and install fancy electronics in their ears.
    posted by snottydick at 10:21 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Countdown to this technology being applied to human beings in 3... 2... 1...

    It was surprisingly easy, we just made it so that the human's smart phone goes dim as they approach the edge of the virtual fence. It's strikingly more efficient than the bad old days of tractor-beam, probe, chip, and release.
    posted by sebastienbailard at 10:25 AM on February 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


    So a week long horseback camping trip under Montana's big sky

    You don't camp! You ride one section, fix the fence, finish for the day. Next week or in a few days, another section. All year long--esp. after heavy snows or spring runoff. Nothing about cattle ranching resembles a vacation.
    posted by Ideefixe at 10:25 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    This is interesting from a philosophical standpoint, but I need to know:

    __________________________________
    < What do the cows say about this? >
     ----------------------------------
            \   ^__^
             \  (oo)\_______
                (__)\       )\/\
                    ||----w |
                    ||     ||

    posted by mccarty.tim at 12:34 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Now all they have to do is put GPS shock collars on the rustlers, predators, and hoof-and-mouth infected deer.

    Do fences stop any of these? Not the deer, and not the rustlers, and predators (for cattle) have got to be few and far between.
    posted by maxwelton at 12:41 PM on February 8, 2013


    You ride one section, fix the fence, finish for the day. Next week or in a few days, another section. All year long--esp. after heavy snows or spring runoff. Nothing about cattle ranching resembles a vacation.

    Heh, I remember doing this in Harvest Moon on Super Nintendo, and it was tedious enough then!
    posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:43 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    What do the cows say about this?

    This.
    posted by cosmic.osmo at 1:01 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I got stuck in a loop trying to parse the caption of the picture of the "Google Maps Rainbow Plane":
    The Google Maps rainbow plane, an iconic image of the New Aesthetic for the way in which it accidentally captures the hyperspectral oddness of new representational technologies and image-compression algorithms on a product intended for human eyes.
    posted by achrise at 1:26 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I have spent my whole life enjoying the open spaces in the western US and never, ever been shot at or even threatened with a gun.

    I, on the other hand, have had golf course goundskeepers threaten me with shotguns for inner tubing down a river and scooping golf balls out the river. In Canada.

    [rivers are public access and the groundskeepers have shotguns loaded with blanks to scare off geese - I actually worked at one of the golf courses but the groundskeeper didn't know it]

    The problem is that people generally do not know the law. They only know what people or TV has told them is the law.
    posted by srboisvert at 1:54 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Ha! The prototype headset wouldn't last 6hrs on our cavorting cows. The units would be head-butted to bits.

    Thinking out loud... I like the idea but I would also like to see some research done on what possible positive forces could be used to encourage the cattle to move to a new area rather than only relying on negative forces only such as unpleasant sounds or feelings. An electric fence also encloses cattle using an unpleasant feeling but the cattle can see it. They know where it is without going near it. I worry that this unseen boundary may cause additional anxiety for the animals. However, if the reward was always better tucker, then they may react in a less anxious manner over time, replacing the anxiety with excitement.

    Aside from that, the uses are fascinating. If somewhat ghoulish. I dislike the idea of creating a new range of 'avoidances' for the cattle to experience but I can see how functional, from a farmers point of view, remote control herding would be. If you could program the thing so that you could cause some animals to separate from the rest of the herd, it would be astounding. It would also remove a lot of the pleasure this small farmer gets from personally interacting with the cattle. I might wait until I can get mine from Deal Extreme.
    posted by Kerasia at 3:02 PM on February 8, 2013


    The Google Maps rainbow plane, an iconic image of the New Aesthetic for the way in which it accidentally captures the hyperspectral oddness of new representational technologies and image-compression algorithms on a product intended for human eyes.

    It would seem that one of the picture-caption editors still owes over $100,000 on her MFA.
    posted by Twang at 3:08 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    What do the cows say about this?

    "damn the virtual fence! damn the virtual fence!"
    posted by pyramid termite at 5:33 PM on February 8, 2013


    Positive forces include more food, girl cows, absence of predators. Cattle, sad to say, are not all that complicated. They will freeze to death in as snow storm, because they lower their noses to the ground--not the most intelligent move. Don't romanticize them.
    posted by Ideefixe at 8:35 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Don't romanticize them.

    Bit late now. I have a herd of 30 and I've named them all.
    posted by Kerasia at 8:54 PM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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