The Use of Drones to Support “Cattle Tracking” Activities to Monitor Livestock Movements and Wildlife Numbers


  • Casi Swain
  • Katherine McNees
  • Kotrni Ferraro


The Oakley Sustainable Agriculture Center was donated to Tech several years ago. The Farm consists of almost 2,000 ac, and includes 600 brood cows, 150 developing heifers, and assorted calves depending on time of year. Unfortunately several years ago with a large number of cattle stolen. Since then, efforts are underway to “track” cattle more efficiently and to conduct more frequent inventories, and include “electronic boundaries.” Also, two additional objectives have arisen and with the aid of RFID ear tags, and work in that area is progressing. With RFID technology, a mineral feeder has been constructed to monitor cattle mineral consumption patterns as well as spray an insecticide for hornfly control. The spray system is connected to the US Weather Station and cows are sprayed with insecticide every 18 – 21 days, except in high wind and rain conditions. Additionally, a creep feeder has been fitter with a “reader” along with load cells where we can monitor feed consumption in a creep feeder by individual calves. The inventory problem is still several generations of technology away, so the group is adding drones to the arsenal to both monitor livestock movements and the births of new baby calves, and also wildlife numbers and movements. Drones seem to offer our best opportunity to develop an inventory system as we await the availability of electronic ear tags with a range of 1 mile or more. This technology is currently available, but is currently only available to military personnel.