Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

Innovative GPS collars track cattle, land and fire impacts in North Kimberley

[June 2015]

A North Kimberley project is using GPS cattle collars to track cattle responses to prescriptive burning programs and inform producers of how their cattle react to fires and how they are using recently burnt areas.

The project is a partnership between Rangelands NRM, Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and CSIRO, funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

Nicknamed the CaLF project (Cattle, Land and Fire), this research is part of the AWC’s EcoFire program and aims to demonstrate the productive benefits of this fire management regime and to fine-tune the integration of fire and cattle management.

Rangelands NRM’s Project Manager (Kimberley) Kira Andrews said the GPS collars are fitted to lightly managed stock that are held in areas where prescriptive burns are regularly conducted as a method of fire abatement.

“The cattle are collared before prescriptive burning programs and have unfettered access to both burnt and unburnt country,” Ms Andrews said.

“As the country dries out and the differences between burnt and unburnt country subside, the cattle are mustered and the collars collected to begin analysis of around three-months of data,” she said.

Ms Andrews said the data will show the locations visted by the cattle as well as what the they were doing at each particular location resting or actively grazing.

The project has installed 48 collars on cattle in the North Kimberley, including 18 cows mustered into yards at Mount House Station.

The collars were developed and supplied by CSIRO and installed in the yards or by sedating the free-ranging cattle with darts.

Powered by solar panels, they are fitted with a GPS unit, a gyroscope to detect head movement, and an individual VHF transmitter to facilitate collection of the collar after deployment.

AWC Project Manager Anja Skroblin said this was the first time this particular collar model had been deployed in a remote area as well as on free-range stock.

“Now that the collars have been installed, we will conduct regular field monitoring to check the continued functioning of the collars and monitor the regrowth of pasture in burn scars where cattle can and cannot graze,” she said.

Images:

1) Collared cattled in the yard.

2) GPS collar.