Researchers to track eating habits of Highwoods cows and goats

  • Date

    Thu 16 Nov 23

Photo shows Professor Edd Codling working with partners in Highwoods on their project tracking cows

A new collaboration involving researchers from the University of Essex will see sensors used to track the eating habits of cows and goats at Highwoods Country Park in Colchester.

Professor Edward Codling, of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science, and Professor Tom Cameron, of the School of Life Sciences, are working with Legacy Grazing and technology firm, Nofence, to monitor the movement of the animals.

They will collect data via a sensor - fitted with GPS tracking and an accelerometer - which will be used to establish where and when they are eating; offering a glimpse into the behaviour of the animals.

It is hoped the data will also give the team an idea of which areas of land are productive for grazing and others which are not.

Professor Codling said: “Our project specifically focuses on identifying feeding behaviour in grazing animals such as the cattle and goats currently at Highwoods.

“By recording movement in the neck-mounted Nofence sensor and linking this to their spatial position we aim to map out where they graze in an automated way.

"Importantly, this will enable us to gain a better understanding of how the animals interact with their local environment and how this could be beneficial for restoring and managing the natural landscape.

“We hope to continue working with Legacy Grazing and Nofence in future projects to develop this research further."

A number of Legacy Grazing cows, which forms part of Essex County Council’s Place Services, currently based at Highwoods Country Park are being monitored, with researchers also planning to track the goats, which have become popular with walkers visiting the beauty spot.

Cows grazing in a field in Highwoods Country Park in Colchester

Legacy Grazing are working in collaboration with Colchester City Council to restore a series of flower-rich meadows in the Country Park, which is a valuable refuge for wildlife in the heart of Colchester.

If successful, the project will help Nofence to develop additional functionality within their tracking app, and will enable Legacy Grazing to better understand how their animals interact with the landscape they're in.

John Smout, Senior Sales Manager for Nofence, said: “Independent research by external partners is extremely important to us as a business and to our customers, through this research project we can not only highlighted the effectiveness of our technology but can use this data to show the prospective clients the tangible benefits from not just the virtual fence but the economic driver in utilising pastures fully.

“We are excited to partner with the University of Essex and Legacy Grazing in this endeavour of data collection and look forward to the results.

Luke Bristow, Principal Ecological Consultant for Essex County Council’s Place Services, said: “We are really pleased to be working with the University of Essex and Nofence on such an innovative project.

“The new insights provided by the research will greatly improve the impact our livestock will have upon the scarce and threatened habitats they are helping partners, like Colchester City Council, manage and improve.”