The Behavioural Responses of Beef Cattle (Bos taurus) to Declining Pasture Availability and the Use of GNSS Technology to Determine Grazing Preference
Sydney Institute of Agriculture, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Centre for Carbon, Water and Food, 380 Werombi Road, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia
Faculty of Science, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, 425 Werombi Road, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Courtney L. Daigle
Agriculture 2017, 7(5), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7050045
Received: 4 April 2017 / Revised: 11 May 2017 / Accepted: 16 May 2017 / Published: 19 May 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Monitoring Animal Behavior Using Remote Sensing and GIS Technologies)
Combining technologies for monitoring spatial behaviour of livestock with technologies that monitor pasture availability, offers the opportunity to improve the management and welfare of extensively produced beef cattle. The aims of the study were to investigate changes to beef cattle behaviour as pasture availability changed, and to determine whether Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology could determine livestock grazing preference and hence improve pasture management and paddock utilisation. Data derived from GNSS collars included distance travelled and location in the paddock. The latter enabled investigation of individual animal interactions with the underlying Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and pasture biomass of the paddock. As expected, there was a significant temporal decrease in NDVI during the study and an increase in distance travelled by cattle (P < 0.001; r2 = 0.88). The proportion of time budget occupied in grazing behaviour also increased (P < 0.001; r2 = 0.71). Cattle showed a partial preference for areas of higher pasture biomass/NDVI, although there was a large amount of variation over the course of the study. In conclusion, cattle behaviour changed in response to declining NDVI, highlighting how technologies that monitor these two variables may be used in the future as management tools to assist producers better manage cattle, to manipulate grazing intensity and paddock utilisation.