Virtual Herding Project

A major project has been established under the Commonwealth Rural R&D for Profit programme, to undertake research and development of the implementation of virtual herding technology across the major livestock industries in Australia.

Overview of the project

The Australian Government’s Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit programme is a $200 million competitive grants program with funding available over eight financial years (2014/2015 to 2021/2022).

The project, “Enhancing the profitability and productivity of livestock farming through virtual herding technology”, was funded from 1 July, 2016 by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, through the second round of submissions to the Rural R&D for Profit programme. The four year project is a partnership between CSIRO, University of Sydney, University of New England, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, The University of Melbourne, and Agersens Pty Ltd, and involves the dairy, beef, wool and pork industries and their respective RDC’s; Dairy Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Australian Pork Limited.

Fact sheet 1 - Overall project (PDF, 262KB)

Subprogram 1: Optimising the animal response to virtual herding technology (PDF, 204KB)

Subprogram 2: Optimising livestock and pasture management for intensive dairy and beef through more controlled pasture allocation (PDF, 274KB)   

Subprogram 3: Determine best sub-herd and individual animal management for dairy and beef production systems (PDF, 302 KB)    

Subprogram 4: Using virtual herding technology to better manage sheep (PDF, 201 KB)

Research Activities

There are five main subprograms within this Project.  The project aims to evaluate the on-farm application of virtual herding (VH) technology, demonstrate its implementation, and quantify and extend its benefits across the major livestock industries in Australia. The project will investigate the behaviour of different livestock (dairy cows, beef cattle and sheep) in response to VH cues and controls. The studies will examine the potential to constrain animals to certain areas (better grazing management and environmental outcomes), autonomously herd animals, or moving individual or groups of animals in a herd differently to the rest of that herd. Fundamental research involving behavioural observations and physiological measurements will be critical to ensure that the VH technology does not compromise the welfare of animals.  This project will also develop an understanding of the learning, management and ethical challenges faced by farmers that may implement VH on their farms.

Subprogram 1: Optimising the animal response to VH technology.

Subprogram 2: Using VH technology to improve pasture utilisation.

Subprogram 3: Using VH technology to manage individual animals in a herd.

Subprogram 4: Using VH technology to better manage sheep.

Subprogram 5: Challenges for integration and adoption of VH.

You can find more information on each of the Subprograms page.

Project Groups

Project Team

The principal investigators for this Project are:

Richard Rawnsley, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Burnie, Tas.
Megan Verdon, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Burnie, Tas.
Caroline Lee, CSIRO, Armidale, NSW
David Henry, CSIRO, Werribee, Vic.
Dana Campbell, CSIRO, Armidale, NSW
Cameron Clark, University of Sydney, Camden, NSW
Sabrina Lomax, University of Sydney, Camden, NSW
Ruth Nettle, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic.
David Lamb, University of New England, Armidale, NSW
Danila Marini, University of New England, Armidale, NSW
Sally Haynes, Agersens Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Vic.

Project Steering Committee

Steering Committee for Virtual Herding Project - Terms of Reference (PDF, 762KB)


Cathy Phelps, Program Manager,  Dairy Australia


Tel: 0439 555 001

Ray King, Project Manager


Tel: 0412 322 047