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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Proactive Livestock Management -- Capitalizing on Animal Behavior

Author
item Anderson, Dean

Submitted to: Journal of Arid Land Studies
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 19, 1996
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Reducing predation loss, cutting conventional fencing cost, eliminating unproductive time to locate animals and promoting uniform utilization of vegetation are management challenges faced by resource managers. Couple these challenges with proactive husbandry and the ability to modify small ruminant behavior and you now have a tool to attain many production goals. Sheep and goats normally forage separate from cattle. However, if young ruminants are socialized with cattle, as adults the ruminants will form one or more flerds, i.e. small ruminants that consistently remain close to cattle. To bond sheep and goats to cattle this can be accomplished by a period of uninterrupted pen confinement of small ruminants with tolerant cattle or by combining pen confinement with repetitive and frequent regrouping of animals under free-ranging conditions until the small ruminants consistently remain with cattle. Flerds provide several management benefits. Cattle appear to intimidate coyotes thus small ruminants are protected as a result of their close association with cattle. The flerd remains confined to an area if fencing is only adequate to restrain cattle provided cattle are absent in adjoining pastures since the bond is species not individual specific. However, all behaviors can be compromised given the right conditions. Therefore, property boundaries should be fenced to hold all animals. Because of their stature, cattle are normally recognized first on a landscape; therefore, with flerds all animals are located simultaneously thus reducing search time. Cattle appear to dictate the flerd's foraging location resulting in more of the landscape being utilized than if flocks and herds forage independently. Research continues on methods to produce bonds more efficiently and faster.

Technical Abstract: This paper describes a technique for modifying sheep and/or goat behavior to reduce canine predation, management time and fencing requirements under mixed-species stocking. Procedures to modify behavior of individual animals are outlined within existing management strategies. The concept involves bonding sheep and/or goats to cattle to produce a cohesive group termed a flerd. A flerd acts as a single interdependent cohesive livestoc unit under free-ranging conditions, rather than as distinct herds and flocks coexisting in the same area.

Last Modified: 10/30/2014
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