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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #377692

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Can cattle geolocation data yield behavior-based criteria to inform precision grazing systems on rangeland?

item MCINTOSH, MATTHEW - New Mexico State University
item CIBILS, ANDRES - New Mexico State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item GONG, QIXU - New Mexico State University
item CAO, HUIPING - New Mexico State University
item Gonzalez, Alfredo
item NYAMURYEKUNG'E, SHELMIA - New Mexico State University
item Spiegal, Sheri

Submitted to: Livestock Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/2/2021
Publication Date: 12/5/2021
Citation: McIntosh, M., Cibils, A.F., Estell, R.E., Gong, Q., Cao, H., Gonzalez, A.L., Nyamuryekung'E, S., Spiegal, S.A. 2021. Can cattle geolocation data yield behavior-based criteria to inform precision grazing systems on rangeland?. Livestock Science. 255: Article 104801.

Interpretive Summary: Precision agriculture, currently prevalent among farmers in cropland systems, has great potential to help ranchers meet their sustainability goals in arid rangeland settings. However, new knowledge is needed to develop and test new precision systems that track cattle, trough water levels, and rainfall in "real time." These new systems provide unique opportunities for producers to use behavior and activities associated with animal wellbeing to assist producers in identifying behavioral anomalies. This study used cattle behavior metrics gleaned from data that is currently collected more commonly on rangelands - GPS collars on the cattle downloaded after a sampling event - to identify behavior metrics that could be used as sensitive indicators to diagnose non-normal behavior of cattle on rangeland. Findings can be applied to new rangeland precision systems that collect and present data in real time.

Technical Abstract: A key challenge of precision grazing systems is identifying behavior anomalies associated with situations of deficient animal production and wellbeing. We determined typical ranges of diel variation of movement and activity patterns of steers on rangeland to identify metrics that could serve as indicators of behavior anomalies. Seventeen Raramuri Criollo or Criollo crossbred yearling steers weighing 318 ± 9.3 kg (winter; W) or 358 ± 8.4 kg (late summer; LS) were fitted with GPS collars that recorded animal location at 5-min intervals. Steers grazed a 3,215-ha rangeland pasture for approximately 30 d in W or LS in 2016 and 2017. GPS data were used to derive 22 commonly-monitored behavior variables. Means and day-to day variation (coefficient of variation %, CV) of all behavior metrics were calculated for each animal as well as linear correlations between the CV of each behavior and average daily gain (ADG). Daily time spent resting or grazing exhibited the least day-to-day variation in both W and LS (CV resting =10.8 and 9.9%, respectively; CV grazing =13.8 and 14.8%, respectively). Predawn area explored (CV =240.8%) and time spent at drinkers (CV =336.6%) exhibited the most daily variation in W and LS, respectively. During W, ADG increased with day-to-day variation in daytime distance traveled or area explored, and daily time spent traveling (r =0.56 to 0.58; P < 0.05). In LS, steers with greater CV for 24-h area explored, time spent traveling, or daytime distance traveled tended to gain less weight (r =-0.77 to -0.84; P < 0.01), while steers with more flexible 24 hour path sinuosity tended to gain more weight (r = 0.93; P < 0.01). Behavior metrics more closely associated with forage intake processes, such as daily time spent grazing or resting, exhibited lowest diel variation levels and could be used as sensitive indicators to diagnose non-normal behavior of cattle on rangeland.