John Church is amused by the attention he’s been getting about his quest to buy a drone.
The cattle research chair at Thompson Rivers University said his interest in the technology is a natural part of the evolution of raising cattle.
Church heads a team of researchers who study and develop innovative practices that address the realities of the cattle industry, from keeping track of them out on the range to meat production.
He said one of the uses a drone can provide would be to help locate the animals in the vast fields most ranchers are using, much of it under a forest canopy.
With the help of an infrared camera, early detection of diseases can flow as cattle spike temperatures — which the camera could detect – when they’re sick.
The drone could be used for more, Church said, including vegetation and biomass — and the plan is to eventually partner with Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s researchers who work on radio frequencies.
All cattle are required to have a radio-frequency button that provides a limited area of activation.
Studies now are leading to passive tags that can be detected up to 15 kilometres away from the animal — and there’s even more research on longer battery lives and, possibly, solar-powered tags.
Although the budget for the drone Church wants to buy is about $50,000, he said the reality is ranchers are also starting to look at less-expensive models that can make it easier for them to keep track of their herds, replacing the 3 a.m. trek by flashlight that is part of their lives.
One observation that will be made early in the study will be to simply watch and see how cattle react to the drones, although Church said he has watched a video of a drone being used effectively to round up the animals.