The paper presents an investigation into wireless sensor networks (WSNs) for cattle monitoring. The proposed solution fulfils the requirement for intensive condition monitoring of individual animals, aggregation and timely reporting of data to the farm manager. The core contribution of this study is a wireless communication solution designed for both loose house dairy cattle and free ranging beef cattle. The design target utilises inexpensive, low power consumption sensor nodes as the base elements of a data gathering and communication infrastructure. This platform facilitates real-time data download for loose housed dairy cattle and non real-time communication for free ranging beef cattle where the former is more challenging. In order to meet the target objectives, both the hardware and software are designed to adapt to the deployment challenges which include mobility, radio path interference, short transmission range of sensor nodes and limited resources in terms of energy and storage. These challenges have been analysed and addressed. Laboratory experiments and farm trials have been carried out to evaluate the performance of the platform communication protocol. The results of experiments demonstrate that the platform performs efficiently while conforming to the limitations associated with WSN implementations.