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Modern technology being used to support land management at Sutton Park


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Collars are to be fitted to 78 head of cattle for their annual grazing period at Sutton Park in a new virtual fencing solution that helps better manage the land and the animals living on it.

The short pulse delivered from the collar is much milder than that from a traditional electric fence and is designed to be uncomfortable rather than painful.

Cattle receiving the pulse do not become agitated but turn away from the fence. Cattle are trained beforehand in a controlled environment and have been shown to quickly learn to respond to the audible cue without the need to deliver a pulse.

Virtual fencing is a new technology with no physical structure above or below ground – instead, the animal is tracked by a GPS collar worn around its neck. The collar receives the positioning of a virtual fence line, drawn on a computer programme and then transmitted from the device, acting as a base station.

Adam Neachell, the grazier who owns the cattle, said: “It’s really important for us to have cattle at Sutton Park for a number of reasons.

“The presence of grazing animals such as the herd of Exmoor ponies and our cattle adds to the diversity of landscape through their grazing patterns. We can take pride in knowing that the continuation of grazing is essential to the condition of the park and its status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

“This technology helps us blend modern know-how with one of the oldest forms of land management to improve all aspects of the grazing process.”

The idea to bring the collars to cattle grazing in Sutton Park was first tabled in 2017 by Sutton Coldfield Golf Club – which has existed in the park for over 125 years and is a tenant on the western side of the site.

The golf club goes to great lengths to limit the grazing animals wandering over the course, with physical wires and keeping the grass cut short along the edge of fairways.

After investigating what modern technologies were available, Keith Hopkinson, a local resident, golf club member and retired Chief Information Officer from the cattle industry, soon realised that virtual fencing was the only technology capable of being deployed successfully.

Mr Hopkinson said: “It was clear from the outset that a virtual fencing system offered many advantages to all stakeholders in the park. This includes better visibility and control of grazing patterns throughout the park, improving the quality of the historic heathland and woodland, as well as protecting the golf course from the risk of costly damage.”

Similar systems have been used across the country by councils and other organisations like the National Trust and Natural England for conservation grazing at sites including Epping Forest (Essex), Burnham Beeches (Buckinghamshire), and Headley Heath (near Birmingham). 

At the end of the grazing season, the collars will be removed, and a final review of all data will be undertaken. Following the review, if it is agreed the first year was effective, further adaptations could be introduced, building on lessons learned for future years.


Written by: David Watkins

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