Comparing beef cow behavioral syndromes to measures of productivity and spatial use of rangelands

TitleComparing beef cow behavioral syndromes to measures of productivity and spatial use of rangelands
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsWesley R.L., Cibils AF, Pollak E.R., Cox S.H., Mulliniks T., Petersen M.K., Fredrickson E.L.
Conference Name62nd Society for Range Management Annual Meeting
Date Published02/2009
PublisherSociety for Range Management
Conference LocationAlb., NM
ARIS Log Number237954
Keywordsabstract, animal, behavioral, GPS, productivity, spatial use

Individuals within animal groups exhibit consistent behavioral patterns within or across situations known as behavioral syndromes. Proactive (nervous) vs. reactive (calm) behavioral syndromes are observed in many animal species and influence how individuals cope with stress. We investigated the relationships between stress coping styles, spatial patterns of rangeland use, and performance of 36 young cows during two consecutive calving seasons (2006-07). Feeding rate in confinement was the criterion used to classify cows into stress copying style groups. Cows were tracked using GPS collars for approximately 45 days during calving; calves were tracked with GPS collars in 2007. Compared to proactive cows (PR), reactive individuals (RE) spent more time at water (means ± SD; PR: 73 ± 50 vs. RE: 172 ± 40 min/d), used less area (PR: 21 ± 3 vs. RE: 17 ± 3 ha/d), and exhibited more concentrated movement patterns (PR: 264 ± 44 vs. RE: 313 ± 73 m traveled/ha explored). Reactive individuals had lighter body weights (PR: 434 ± 33 vs. RE: 395 ± 28 kg), longer postpartum anestrous periods (PR: 44 ± 14 vs. RE: 68 ± 18 d), and weaned lighter calves (PR: 207 ± 37 vs. RE: 179 ± 20 kg). Calves born to highly proactive cows (PR+) were lighter than those born to less proactive mothers (PR-). PR+ spent less time near their calves, traveled further from their offspring, and weaned lighter calves than PR-. Behavioral syndromes appeared to influence landscape use and beef cow productivity in this study. Cows with intermediate stress coping styles appeared to be the best suited to the biophysical characteristics of our study site.