eShepherd trial at Sutton Park
Tuesday, 31 January, 2023
At Gallagher, we know eShepherd™ will be the next evolutionary step in pasture management, but for many customers going without physical fencing is ground-breaking tech and could be a challenging concept. So, as we continue to prepare for launch, sharing our story and letting people see the system in action is important. Many of our trials have been in traditional agricultural settings, where this technology and other developments in farming technologies are the key to unlocking the future of farming... but it turns out virtual fencing could be just as effective in many events, as we recently found out at our first trial in Europe.
Sutton Park is a national nature reserve located near Birmingham in the UK, covering approx. 900 ha, with around a third being grasslands. Each year, Adam Neachell, a local farmer, brings his cattle to the park for around six months, to naturally graze the grasslands, maintain the ecology and encourage local biodiversity... but there is an issue with this...
Coldfield Golf Club is located in the north-west of the national park and in the past cattle have caused damage to the course. However, because the club is on public land, they are not allowed to use physical fencing to protect the fairways and greens.
In addition to the golf club, in July 2022, some events of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games were held at Sutton Park – and no one wants to run their sneakers through a cowpat in the middle of a triathlon!
Savvy club member, Keith Hopkinson, saw an opportunity with Gallagher to trial the virtual fencing solution to keep animals off the Golf Course, so he and Adam worked with Birmingham Council and the Games Organizers to set up for the summer.
“The city council’s Animal Welfare team backed the proposals for a range of reasons including the fact that traditional electric fencing poses a threat to wildlife, especially deer – but the virtual system does not affect any other wildlife and allows them to move freely without risk.” Birmingham City Council
After a short trial and training period with the eShepherd™ solar-powered GPS collars fitted to the cattle at Adam’s farm to let the animals learn the alert and electric pulse actions, they were moved to Sutton Park in May 2022.
Keith was really pleased to be able to run the trial after it had first been submitted in 2017, saying “It was clear from the outset that a virtual fencing system offered many advantages to all stakeholders in the park. This includes better visibility and control of grazing patterns throughout the park, improving the quality of the historic heathland and woodland, and improving animal welfare as well as protecting the golf course from the risk of costly damage.”
During the trial in an interview for the BBCs Midlands Today program, Keith said, “It’s working really well – we're all delighted with the way it’s working.”
“Have you ever heard the like? Clever stuff!” Midlands Today presenter, Mary Rhodes
The grazing season at Sutton Park came to an end in early September, which means the neckbands have now been removed from animals and packed away, ready for another season next year.
Gallagher’s Customer Support Lead for the Sutton Park Trial, Andrew Zipsin has been reviewing the data and says, “The eShepherd Web App has collated the animal location data for the entire season and a ‘heatmap’ clearly shows that the animals were effectively kept off the golf course, and away from the Commonwealth Games Triathlon area. Everyone involved has been absolutely delighted with the application of this new technology to solve an otherwise difficult problem.”
Click here if you want to find out more about the eShepherd™ system.