Finding lost cows with GPS trackers

Author: Olivier Guiot (ILVO) - Date: January 25, 2019

Kris and Geert operate a beef dairy farm called Saeftingherhof at the border crossing between Belgium and the Netherlands. From May untill October, the cows graze in a nature reserve area of 250 hectares, comprised of a delta of many mud flats and salt marshes with trenches that fill up twice a day with the salty Schelde water. However, one major obstacle of hectare natural grazing system is that cows can get lost or stuck in narrow trenches, and run the risk of drowning. Especially in those conditions, a GPS location tracker would be very useful.

Kris (left) and Geert (right) overlooking their herd of Belgian Blues.

The Belgian Blue cattle of Saethingerhof. 

That is why Kris and Geert decided to try out the StickNTrack solution developed by the Belgian company Sensolus. Whereas the Stickntrack solution was implemented at different test farms in order to test it’s potential for pasture management, "pasture milk" auditing and free nature grazing; it proved especially useful for the last one. The StickNTrack is an easy to implement GPS tracker with very long battery life, ensuring you know where the cow is grazing at any moment. Kris and Geert of Saeftingherhof testified that the Grazing Cow Monitor was of great value on 3 levels:

  1. Optimizing time management, as their physical time spent on the field looking for cows on a daily basis significantly decreased.
  2. Stress reduction, as the ability to track and know the position of each animal at any time significantly decreased their stress
  3. The economic value through proven ROI

The return on investment was clear. Within the test period, 2 cows that were trapped, had been saved from death. This means a recovered potential revenue loss of +/- 5.000 EUR compared to a small investment for the StickNTrack. And this is great news, let it be that, losing cows, in this rather difficult to access nature reserve, is just one of the main issues the farmers are confronted with each year. Implementing a solution that could prevent this, was just what they needed. So, yes, with respect to this, 2018 proved to be a good year for Kris and Geert. It is no surprise they confirmed their willingness to continue implementing the Grazing Cow Monitor for the coming years.

Kris and Geert quickly noticed on the StickNTrack dashboard (pictured right) that something was wrong. One of their cows got stuck in a ditch (pictured left). But thanks to the GPS tracker, they were able to react promptly and save the animal. 

For more information on the project, visit the Internet of Food & Farm website:


UPDATE February 12, 2019: Check out the the Technology warehouse for an overview of different commercial systems for tracking cattle outdoors.