This web site was copied prior to January 20, 2005. It is now a Federal record managed by the National Archives and Records Administration. External links, forms, and search boxes may not function within this collection.
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
Scientists are using the same satellites to help
record 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
Informationabout 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
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
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.
Elstein, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff