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.
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