The work summarises a study of the data communications requirements for agricultural livestock monitoring applications using wireless sensor networks (WSNs). Several design challenges are identified and analysed in depth based on actual global positioning system positioning data gathered from an actual herd of cattle. A wireless system including antennae diversity together with data downloads optimisation schemes utilising data collector and routers are developed and tested in a working farm environment. Two analysis metrics, connection availability and connection duration, are used to quantify the impact of cattle movement on network connectivity. The major contributions of this study stem from a definition of the communication issues in deploying animal monitoring platforms in free-ranging farm environments and the analysis and optimisation of the wireless data download performance using as the foundation knowledge gained from a series of working farm trials. Additionally, the data download protocols are designed particularly to treat animal movement. The results prove the viability of WSN-based solutions for livestock monitoring applications.