Adding a drone to livestock herding proves life-hack for Marlborough farmer

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RNZ rnz.co.nz

A drone flying farmer says since bringing the technology on-farm, herding his livestock has become much less arduous.

Marlborough-based Jason Rentoul runs sheep, beef and deer on his rolling hill country property in Wairau Valley.

Mr Rentoul said he got a drone last year after seeing one at a field days event and had been using it to herd his livestock up to three times a week since.

He said using the drone had slashed the time it took to shift stock by more than 50 per cent.

"Not only is it good for deer, we move cows and calves at foot ... where normally they would just want to fight the dogs ... they'll move fine for a drone and just trot along," Mr Rentoul said.

Mr Rentoul said it used to take two hours for two men with two teams of dogs to muster sheep from some of the hill blocks on his farm, but now it took three quarters of an hour for him to do it only using a drone.

"Being a hilly farm where a lot of stuff is done on foot, the drones really saved a lot of man hours.

"The drone does the higher bits that you can't see [from the ground] and you would [otherwise] have to walk half an hour to go and have a look and then go 'oh there was no sheep there'," he said.

Despite getting a hard time from some other farmers in the area, he wishes he'd started using a drone sooner.

He said his dogs still had a part to play in the herding process, despite the drone.

"The thing with a drone is it doesn't have a lot of push, so when we get to the end of a block where we actually have to bark the sheep off, or the deer off, we have to pull out the dogs."

Jason Rentoul said the drone and his heading dog now worked together.

"A good heading dog, he's already figured out if the drones working on that side, I'll go over here [to the other side] and work over here."

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