Virtual Herding

Virtual herding technology was developed by the CSIRO approximately 10 years ago. The technology is now going through a process of commercialisation, backed by research to determine the uses and constraints of the technology on farm.

Using virtual herding technology, research will investigate the potential to constrain animals to certain areas for better grazing management and environmental outcomes, autonomously herd animals, or move 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 the technology does not compromise animal welfare.

The Virtual Herding project overview (PDF, 262KB)

The following video helps explain virtual herding technology and the responses of livestock which have been observed in the virtual herding project.

Research and program areas

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. Below are the five main subprograms within the project.

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)

Subprogram 5: Challenges for integration and adoption of virtual herding (PDF, 214KB)

Click here to find more detailed information on each of the subprograms.

Virtual Herding project

This project has been made possible as a result of the Commonwealth Rural R&D for Profit program. The project aims 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 program is a $200 million competitive grants program with funding available over eight financial years (2014–2015 to 2021–2022).

The Virtual Herding project received $2.6 million from the Australian Government through its Rural R&D for Profit program. A further $1.365 million has been provided by a number of Rural Research and Development Corporations and R&D providers. The R&D providers include CSIRO, the University of Sydney, University of New England, the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, the University of Melbourne and Agersens Pty Ltd, with additional contributions from Dairy Australia, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Australian Pork Limited.

The project began in July 2016 and is expected to finish in November 2020.

Project groups

The principal investigators for this project are:

Project steering committee

A core requirement of the Virtual Herding project was the establishment of a project steering committee which represents stakeholders and includes industry and research and development corporation representatives as well as an animal welfare agency representative.

The steering committee is chaired by Dr Drewe Ferguson from CSIRO and meets at least twice a year. The role of the steering committee is to guide and direct the project and make it accountable to the respective livestock industries.

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