Low-Cost Livestock Global Positioning System Collar from Commercial Off-the-Shelf Parts

Jason W. Karl, James E. Sprinkle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices are a fundamental technology for quantifying the distribution and movement of livestock across landscapes. Although costs of GPS devices have decreased, it is still cost prohibitive to implement a large number of collars per study. Our objective was to develop and test a low-cost GPS collar using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronic components to study livestock distribution and movement. Our COTS GPS tracker was built using the popular Arduino open-source microcontroller and a low-power timer board to cycle a GPS at defined intervals. Location data were saved to a data card in an open format for easy analysis. Total cost per COTS GPS device (including housing and collar) was $54.78. Average displacement from a known location and 95% circular error probability was 4.58 m, commensurate with other GPS collars. We tested durability and field performance of 25 COTS GPS collars against 24 existing GPS collars recording data at 5-min intervals in a southwest Idaho, United States study area. Our COTS GPS design and test showed that it is possible to manufacture low-cost location tracking devices, but the limitations of such devices must be considered relative to study objectives and duration. Low-cost location trackers will encourage collection of a higher density of location information to better understand patterns of livestock use in rangeland landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)954-958
Number of pages5
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Arduino
  • GPS location
  • Global Positioning System
  • animal tracking
  • livestock distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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