- What proportion of the flock needs to wear a collar?
In principle we recommend that all of your animals wear a collar, except young kids that stay close to their mothers. Kids that start crossing the Nofence boundary, leaving behind their mothers and the flock, should wear a collar so that their mothers don’t follow them out of the grazing area. Herd instinct means that some animals will stay with the rest of the flock regardless, and you may decide that these individuals don’t need a collar. You will need to test what works best for you, and we can’t give you definite recommendations. Just remember that the pasture must be good, so the flock will be happy where it is.
- How do I train my animals to use Nofence?
As the owner, you know your goats and farm better than anyone else. Your knowledge plays an important part in the training process. In our experience training is most successful if the animals feel secure where the training is carried out. That involves being part of their normal flock, and feeling safe in their shelter/barn. If new individuals join the flock, or if the flock is moved to a new place, it will take some time for this sense of security to develop. Owners should bear this in mind before starting any training. For an animal to understand the Nofence system, it must experience the three kinds of warning: vibrations, sounds and electric shocks.
It is important for you to observe the animals during training to find out how they respond to the collar’s signals. When the collar emits an electric shock, the goats will be startled.
Our experiences from training Here are some of the things that our experiences from training have taught us: If the area used for training is too big, and the Nofence boundary is too far away from where the animals normally spend their time, they will rarely cross the boundary and receive warnings, so the learning process will take longer.
If the area is too small the animals may become nervous. If there are sharp angles and narrow corridors, the animals will be confused about where the boundary runs. Calling or offering food can be a good way of getting the animals to cross the boundary and experience the warning signals. Our experience is that this will teach them how the system works more quickly. If the flock is too big, the leaders of the flock will have turned around before the ones that tend to stay at the back cross the boundary and experience the warnings.
If there is a shelter in the training area, it can be a good idea to keep the animals there while transferring the grazing area to their collars. When you are notified that the new grazing area has been transferred to all of the collars, you can release the animals. This ensures that the animals are coming from an area where they feel safe when they encounter the boundary and experience the warnings.
Before starting training for the first time you should also: Check that there is good mobile phone and GPS coverage in the area that you will be using for training. Ensure that you have a way to attract/catch the animals if they do leave the training area. At the very start of the training process, it may be best to keep the animals inside their existing fenced area.
- Can I use your grazing technology with animals other than goats?
The collars have initially been developed for goats, and they have been used on goats for several years. The documentation that we need to sell the product in Norway is also specific to goats. In order to sell the product for other grazing animals, we would need to make some small adjustments to the product itself and document that it is compatible with the animals’ welfare in the same way that we have done for goats. Cattle are at the top of our list. In 2013 we tested prototypes on calves in collaboration with the Bavaria State Research Center for Agriculture. Although we only did limited testing, the results were very promising, so we are confident that the collars would also work for cattle. We hope that as many people as possible will let us know if they are interested, as this will enable us to put more resources into development, so we can launch the product more quickly.
- How important is it to have a good GPS signal?
Being able to determine the GPS coordinates is essential to the Nofence system. We have used the term GPS to make it clearer what we are talking about. The real name is GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), with GPS being the name of the American system. We use both the American GPS system and the Russian GLONASS system. The position of the collar is determined by satellites, so it will be most accurate if there is clear line of sight in all directions. Big buildings and hillsides interfere with the line of sight, so near them the system is less accurate. The Nofence boundary should be at a good distance from structures or landforms that block the GPS signal. In the app, the accuracy of the GPS position is shown as a circle around the location of the collar. The smaller the circle, the more accurate the position. Particularly if the grazing area is small, you should aim for high accuracy. How often the GPS position is updated depends on where the animal is in the grazing area. We use both the GPS position and data from an accelerometer (movement sensor) to decide how often to update the position. Close to the Nofence boundary, the position is updated four times a second. Further away from the boundary, updates can be less frequent to save power.
- How important is it to have good mobile phone coverage in the grazing area and how does it work?
In order to transfer new or revised grazing areas to the collar, or to receive information about the animals’ position and any incidents, there must be mobile phone coverage. Currently, all communication between the collar and the app takes place over the mobile phone network using GPRS/EDGE. Our supplier – COM4 – uses Telia’s network. You can find out more about the mobile phone coverage in your area here: https://telia.no/dekningskart
It is also worth noting that it is always the collar that connects to the mobile phone network to send (report) data to Nofence’s server, from where it is forwarded to the app. If you draw or edit a grazing area, you upload it to Nofence’s server. This information is then downloaded to the collar when it next connects to report. How often the collar reports is user-defined. Once the goats understand the system and are familiar with a particular grazing area, you can save power by reducing the frequency of reporting. The minimum reporting frequency is once a day. When you plan to check up on the goats in a large grazing area it may be worth increasing the reporting frequency the day before, in order to use the app’s tracking function.
- How long does the battery last?
The collar has three solar cells that supply power to the batteries, and the aim is for that to be sufficient during a normal grazing season in Norway. Solar cells generate lots of electricity when they receive direct sunlight. Goats, on the other hand, aren’t too keen on sunlight in the middle of summer, so they tend to go somewhere shady when the sun is too strong. With data collected from all of the collars used in 2016, we have been able to calculate the average charging rate over an extended period of time and across much of Norway, which should be fairly representative of the average weather. That rate is approximately 22 mA.
Our fundamental goal is to achieve a balance between energy supplied and energy consumed each day. That requires us to reduce power consumption, which can be done through clever programming.
- Is it easy to replace the batteries if necessary?
Is it easy to replace the batteries if necessary? Regardless of whether we achieve our goal of balancing the energy supply and energy consumption, we understand the importance of being able to replace batteries and charge the collars from a socket. This is particularly true for people wanting to make use of grazing land in late autumn or winter in northern latitudes. In other parts of the world we believe that there will be less need to replace the batteries.
For further information, see the user manual for the collars.
- How loud is the noise and how powerful is the electric shock?
According to our measurements, 20 cm from the bell on the collar the noise level is around 40dB, which isn’t particularly painful for the animals compared with the noise made by traditional bells, for example. You can listen to the lowest frequency here (http://szynalski.com/tone#2000) and the highest frequency here (http://szynalski.com/tone#4200)
We have chosen to limit the force of the electric shock to the level stipulated for cow trainers in the Norwegian regulations relating to cattle husbandry. This is around a 50th of the level of conventional electric fences that comply with European standard EN 60335-2-76/AD, which limits the energy to 5 joules. By comparison, the maximum energy transferred by Nofence is approximately 0.1 joules, but if there is good contact with the animal’s skin, it will only be around half that (0.05 joules), at a voltage of 1500 V. That is equivalent to around 1-2% of the maximum permitted level for traditional electric fences. Electric shocks are programmed to last for half a second.
- Which Android versions are compatible with the system?
Android 4.1 (2012) onwards
- Can I use Nofence with an iPhone/IOS?
We plan to release an IOS app in 2017.
- Why doesn’t the app work on desktops?
We will have an app ready by the end of 2017.
- Can other people use the collar if they steal it?
No, each collar has a unique number which is linked to the owner’s account in the Nofence database. If a collar is stolen, you will still be the only person able to track it.
- Do you need to retrain the animals if you move them to a new grazing area?
No, the animals already know how the system works. But they will take a bit of time to get used to a new location, and on the first evening they may want to “go home” to sleep.
- How precise is the “fence” boundary?
The Nofence boundary is a strip of land, which we call the warning zone. The beeping starts where you have marked the Nofence boundary on the map. This means that the animals will only turn around after crossing this boundary. You should therefore leave a margin of error when setting your Nofence boundary to protect your apple tree or flower bed.
- Will we be able to find any collars that have been lost in the grazing area?
Yes, the collar continues reporting its position as long as it has enough power to connect to our server. After this it stops reporting its position, but the fence function continues operating right until the battery is empty. You should therefore replace the battery as soon as the collar stops reporting, while you still know where it is.
- Will bucks stay within a Nofence grazing area without a physical fence?
It is likely that they will cross the boundary, as their instinctive urges are much stronger than the risk of an electric shock.
- Can you see the grazing areas that users create?
Not yet, but it is on the list of functions that we are adding.