Frank Wooten | Virtual Ranch Management

March 06, 2024   |   Cattle

Frank Wooten joins the podcast to share about Vence, a virtual fencing system designed to revolutionize cattle ranching and livestock management.

Frank Wooten is the co-founder of Vence, a virtual fencing system developed for rotational grazing and livestock management. A brand within Merck Animal Health, the Vence tool controls cattle movement, manages grazing, and creates virtual fences to dictate grazing behavior and monitor animal location and movement without physical barriers.

In this episode of In Our Expert Opinion Real Estate Podcast, Wooten highlights the benefits of Vence while addressing some of the challenges this new technology has faced within the ranching and agricultural industry.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.

How did you start Vence? I don't come from a ranching background or a livestock background. Although I kind of wish I did after having spent the last eight years in the industry.

I was approached by some colleagues of mine to kind of talk out this really crazy idea of putting collars on cattle to keep them out of places and to remove the need for physical fencing on ranches, as well as to be able to move cattle around. 

What became really interesting to me over time was that a cattle ranch is a grass factory. Cattle are just the means by which that grass is translated into a consumable piece of protein for humans.

If you're a business owner, how do you increase the productivity of that grass factory? We haven't figured out how to control rain or sunshine yet. The easiest or current way that people do that is they add fencing and labor to it.

When you look at the problem like that, then all of a sudden, fencing becomes this really interesting tool that hasn't been innovated in a long, long time. With barbed wire and electric fencing, each of those are 100 years old. 

What our product does is we put a collar on a cow, and we're able to, via your phone or computer, draw a fencing line on a geo-map that keeps animals in areas, keeps animals out of areas, and actually enables you to move animals from one place to another. 

It uses that Pavlovian response where we train the animal that sound and stimulus are married together. Then, all of a sudden, the cow responds to sound alone. So you can move cows across your property or keep them in areas with just sound.

How does Vence add value? What we're doing is actually just removing what is generally seen as one of the least-liked parts of the job. People love getting on the horse and throwing a lasso on an animal. They love just getting out and riding on a beautiful morning, but they don't like getting off that horse and hammering for 12 hours or cranking barbed wire.

The other thing that it provides is the ability to have certainty of where your herd is. It saves a lot of time. Instead of going and riding around this 400-acre pasture, I'm going to go directly to the cows and put eyes on them. When you're out there, you're actually able to be more productive.

Has Vence received any pushback? In the community that we work in, I think that there's a lot of, not resistance, but natural weariness about things that they can't fix on their own or that nobody else has implemented.

There's a lot of just making sure that the system has thought through the problem set that they encounter on a yearly basis. I think that if you go to any typical rancher or general ag scenario, people have to have innovated over the last 100 years just to survive. It's an innovative environment in general.

What other trends have you seen? One nice thing about the way that our country already has things set up is that most properties are already fenced in, largely from the perimeter fencing. The quality of that fencing could be deteriorated, but the main productivity gain of our product is actually the subdivision of interior fencing.

So if everything went to hell in a handbag and the system is just not working at all, it's not like they're going to be any worse off than they were before. The cows will still be potentially within their perimeter fences. Fences are okay. I think that alleviates some of that existential anxiety related to the product.

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