Satellite know-how makes virtual grazing areas in Epping forest | Natural environment

Epping Forest has swaths of specified land that is property to adders, grass snakes and prevalent lizards, as very well as white admiral and purple hairstreak butterflies, and mammals these types of as shrews and voles that, in switch, offer food for birds of prey and owls.

Even so, existence for the forest’s bovine people has not been so uncomplicated. Forest employees have extended battled to avert the cattle from roaming across close by roads and dual carriageways.

cows roaming in Epping forest

Now, at past, cattle in Epping Forest know their spot – many thanks to satellite engineering. The English Longhorn cows and calves that stay on the historic woodland have been not too long ago equipped with receivers – which seem like cowbells – that can select up GPS signals, which are then used to make digital grazing areas for the animals.

If an animal approaches the edge of its delineated spot, its cowbell detects the boundary and starts off to emit a seem that rises in pitch or inevitably delivers a moderate electric pulse as the animal attempts to cross the boundary.

The technology means the forest’s cattle can spend their time in meticulously chosen spots devoid of the need for barbed wire or electric powered fences to hold them from wandering across the roads surrounding the previous royal forest at the northern idea of London.

The system, pioneered by the Norwegian enterprise Nofence, has been adopted to management the herd of 66 animals that now graze in Epping Forest and which enable preserve the overall health of its 2,400 hectares (5,900 acres) of grass and woodland. Around the subsequent couple many years, it is hoped the procedure will let forest staff to improve the herd to about 150 animals.

“Large grazing animals like cows support to produce incredibly variable habitats,” stated John Phillips, the forest’s grazing and landscapes officer. “They crop again the grass and allow for smaller sized plants to improve. And preserving the grass brief also assists animals, which includes reptiles and birds to feed.”

Hundreds of cows and calves at the time grazed on the land underneath historic rights that had been granted to commoners, folks who lived in a forest parish and who owned at the very least 50 % an acre of land.

In the late 19th century, these legal rights arrived less than pressure as land was enclosed and housing developments unfold. Protests commenced and the forest was sooner or later acquired by the City of London Company and stripped of its designation as a royal forest.

It was decreed that from then on, Epping Forest would be “unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open up space for the recreation and pleasure of the people”. (The correct to accumulate wood in Epping Forest also survives though this is limited to “one faggot of lifeless or driftwood” a working day per resident and is hardly ever exploited.)

The BSE crisis in 1996 led to the removal of cattle from Epping forest.
The BSE disaster in 1996 led to the removal of cattle from Epping forest. Photograph: Mike Booth/Alamy

Commoners were being allowed to proceed grazing cattle – while their quantities fell all through the 20th century until the BSE crisis in 1996 led to their entire elimination from the forest.

Recently, cattle have been introduced back again, triggering the will need for a new option. Fencing is not permitted in Epping Forest so at 1st underground cables were laid spherical the perimeter of grazing parts and cattle have been equipped with monitoring products that gave them a moderate electric powered shock when they experimented with to cross over a cable.

“However, you experienced to dig up the cable every single time you preferred to go the cattle to a new grazing area,” reported Phillips. “In addition, you had to dig up the cables if they broke down or required servicing. We needed a little something additional versatile.”

The Nofence process avoids these problems, stated Phillips. Its receivers relay the precise posture, decided by GPS, of each individual animal in the forest. That knowledge is then transmitted to apps on the mobile telephones of forest team. Working with these equipment, they can then mark out the grazing space for each and every animal on a electronic map that is saved on their telephones.

The animal’s cowbell detects if it is approaching the boundary of its grazing spot and emits seems just before administering a moderate electric pulse.

“The cow learns to affiliate the sound’s increase in pitch with the prospect of staying supplied an electric powered pulse – which is no more powerful than the 1 it would get from an electric powered fence,” explained Synne Foss Budal, general manager of Nofence United kingdom. “As a consequence, it adjustments path away from the boundary.

“We can monitor very specifically what a cow is performing this way. We can see that it understands the big difference in between the initial pitch and the last pitch of the audio emitted, and that it is aware of precisely when a pulse is going to appear. So they time it. They flip all-around at the previous second so they can get the most of fresh new grass at the boundary edge,” she explained.

Crucially, these digital grazing locations can be improved simply by altering their boundaries on a cellular cellular phone app, mentioned Phillips. “We can make a new digital pasture by marking it on a cellular phone although also developing a corridor that backlinks their old pasture with their new a person. The animals will wander down the corridor to their new grazing lands. There is no digging up of cables or knocking down fences. It is just proper for Epping Forest.”

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