Characterising the spatial and temporal activities of free-ranging cows from GPS data

TitleCharacterising the spatial and temporal activities of free-ranging cows from GPS data
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsAnderson D.M., Winters C, Estell RE, Fredrickson E.L., Doniec M, Detweiler C., Rus D., James D.K, Nolen B.
JournalThe Rangeland Journal
Start Page149
Date Published06/2012
ARIS Log Number272824
Keywordsforaging, geospatial data, livestock, travel, weaning behaviour

Electronic tracking provides a unique way to document animal behavior on a continuous basis.  This manuscript describes how uncorrected 1 s GPS fixes can be used to characterize the rate of cow travel (m·s-1) into stationary, foraging and walking activities.  Cows instrumented with GPS devices were observed; and the beginning and ending times of the above activities were recorded.  Data were collected across a number of days and among a number of cows in order to calculate a mean travel rate for each activity.  GPS data were also collected when observers were absent from the paddock and these data were then characterized into the three activities based on rate of travel determined between consecutive GPS fixes.  The activities were further characterized within a 24 h period based on the sun’s angle with respect to the horizon.  GPS data were analyzed from four cows (two in 2009 and two in 2011) and collected for four consecutive 24 h periods before weaning and seven similar time intervals following weaning.  Weaning took place in March each year around mid-day when calves were between 223 and 234 days of age.  These data suggest abrupt weaning caused cows to change their spatial and temporal behavior not only among but also within days.  Overall cow travel increased (p = 0.0093) post-weaning with subtle within day behavioral changes.  Further testing will be required to substantiate the biological implication of spatial and temporal cattle behavioral changes when developing optimum proactive husbandry practices for managing cow dominated landscapes.