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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #409783

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

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Behavioral adaptations of nursing brangus cows to virtual fencing: Insights from a training deployment phase

Author
item NYAMURYEKUNG'E, SHELEMIA - New Mexico State University
item COX, ANDREW - New Mexico State University
item PEREA, A - New Mexico State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item Cibils, Andres
item HOLLAND, J - Sruc-Scotland'S Rural College
item WATERHOUSE, T - Sruc-Scotland'S Rural College
item DUFF, GLENN - New Mexico State University
item FUNK, M - New Mexico State University
item MCINTOSH, MATTHEW - New Mexico State University
item Spiegal, Sheri
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon
item UTSUMI, S - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Animals
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/15/2023
Publication Date: 11/17/2023
Citation: Nyamuryekung'E, S., Cox, A., Perea, A., Estell, R.E., Cibils, A.F., Holland, J.P., Waterhouse, T., Duff, G., Funk, M., McIntosh, M., Spiegal, S.A., Bestelmeyer, B.T., Utsumi, S. 2023. Behavioral adaptations of nursing brangus cows to virtual fencing: Insights from a training deployment phase. Animals. 13(22):3558. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13223558.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13223558

Interpretive Summary: The study explores the use of virtual fencing technology for managing livestock dispersal, focusing on nursing Brangus cows. The study investigates how these animals learn to avoid restricted areas and increase reliance on auditory cues over time. The findings support the effectiveness of virtual fencing in controlling cow spatial behavior and highlight their ability to adapt to virtual boundaries rapidly. The research also presents a safe and efficient training protocol for implementing virtual fence systems.

Technical Abstract: Virtual fencing systems have emerged as a promising technology for managing the dispersal of livestock in extensive grazing environments. This study provides a comprehensive documentation of the learning process involving two conditional behavior mechanisms, and the documentation of efficient, effective, and safe animal training for virtual fence applications on nursing Brangus cows. Two hypotheses were examined: 1) animals would learn to avoid restricted zones by increasing their use of containment zones within a virtual fence polygon, and 2) animals would progressively receive fewer audio-electric cues over time and increasingly rely on auditory cues for behavioral modification. Data from GPS coordinates, behavioral metrics derived from the collar data, and cueing events were analyzed to evaluate these hypotheses. The results supported hypothesis 1, revealing that virtual fence activation significantly increased the time spent in containment zones and reduced time in restricted zones compared to when the virtual fence was deactivated. Concurrently, behavioral metrics mirrored these findings, with cows adjusting their daily travel distances, exploration area, and cumulative activity counts in response to the allocation of areas with different virtual fence configurations. Hypothesis 2 was also supported by the results, with a decrease in cueing events over time, and increased reliance by animals on audio cueing to avert receiving the mild electric pulse. These outcomes underscore the rapid learning capabilities of groups of nursing cows in responding to virtual fence boundaries.