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Cow Collars Help With Satellite Tracking
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Graphic of a satellite in space. Satellites Show Where Animated graphic of a dairy cow
Cattle Moo-ve

Animated graphic of a small boy smiling.You may have seen television commercials for cars equipped with special computers that help drivers find the places they are going. Maybe your parents even drive one. These cars use information from satellites in outer space to let drivers know exactly where they are. The satellites are owned by the U.S. military and are part of the Global Positioning System (GPS), which can pinpoint the exact location of anything that has the device.

Scientists are using the same satellites to help recordGraphic of Dr. Watts, the light bulb-headed cartoon scientist for Sci4Kids. where cattle roam. The GPS units can also tell if a cow is eating or sleeping. Scientists want to know this information because cattle--animals that produce milk and meat--graze (eat) only half the land available to them. The GPS technology is the first device to record the movement of cattle without having humans watching and writing down the results. The GPS is more accurate and less expensive than human watchers.

Photograph of a cow wearing a collar that receives satellite signals from space. Information about the cattle's movements is recorded in special GPS collars that can be seen in the photo at left. Between 24 and 30 satellites communicate with the collars to figure out exactly where the cattle are. Then, Agricultural Research Service scientist Dave Ganskopp transfers the information stored in the collars to a computer map that shows exactly where the animals have gone and when.
Photograph of cowhands driving a herd of cattle. Ganskopp is studying cattle movement in eastern Oregon, where there is a lot of room for cattle to move around in freely. Cattle enjoy grazing on pastures that are near water and on flat land. You probably get tired walking up hills; they do too. Cows look for areas that contain a lot of fresh grass to eat and avoid areas with a lot of rocks.

Ganskopp hopes to be able to eventually predict where the cattle will graze. That information would let farmers better manage their cattle by preventing them from eating plants in one area more often than another. He is also running tests to see how well cows respond to the addition of fences, water, and trails.

-- By David Elstein, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff

To learn more about this GPS technology, check a story in Agricultural Research Animated graphic of an apple. magazine, titled "Tracking Movement of Cattle with Satellites." Other magazine stories related to this topic include: "The Cyber Cow Whisperer And His Virtual Fence" and "GPS Helps Put Manure Where it Counts."

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