Association patterns reveal dispersal-aggregation dynamics among cattle in a South Texas Rangeland, USA
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© 2018, The Author(s). Introduction: The spatial association dynamics of free-ranging cattle herds are not fully understood; however, they can have a direct influence on the spatial patterns of resource utilization. The aim of our study was to examine new analytical methods of identifying the spatio-temporal patterns of behavioral dynamics that determine cattle herd dispersal in the semi-arid rangelands of South Texas. We fitted 10 free-ranging cows with global positioning system collars and obtained positions every 5 min for each animal for 21-day trials, twice during the summer and winter period. We used an association pattern recognition software (ASSOC1) and the herd center of gravity to identify the spatial and temporal thresholds that defined dispersion-aggregation patterns and individual position to determine their relation to social dominance. Results: The association pattern defining herd membership was that animals spent 70% of their time within 200 m of each other. Dominance ranking did not appear to influence association membership or position within the herd. The cattle showed a more dispersed distribution during summer, but in winter, herd members behaved in a more aggregated pattern. This distribution is contrary to patterns described in more northerly and mountainous regions. Conclusions: The spatial thresholds of the cattle herd and the overall distance of all members to the center of the herd were smaller during winter and larger during summer, indicating that this study herd congregated during the winter and dispersed during the summer. Although this study uses a herd of 10 individuals in a 100 ha pasture to evaluate spatio-temporal dynamics, our results provide evidence of the ability of current tracking and spatial association tools to detect and quantify seasonal changes in cattle herd dispersion-aggregation patterns. The use of these data collection and analysis methods could prove useful in larger cattle herds, increase our understanding of herd spatio-temporal behavior, and subsequently help in the development of improved management practices.
author list (cited authors)
Cheleuitte-Nieves, C., Perotto-Baldivieso, H. L., Wu, X. B., & Cooper, S. M.
complete list of authors
Cheleuitte-Nieves, Christopher||Perotto-Baldivieso, Humberto L||Wu, X Ben||Cooper, Susan M