GNSS technology and Declining Pasture

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

Great paper for those beef farmers looking for new technologies to assist them with pasture and/or animal management!

The behavioural responses of beef cattle (Bos taurus) to declining pasture availability and the use of GNSS technology to determine grazing preference

What is the problem?

Most Australian beef enterprises are pasture-based systems on large, remote properties, which makes livestock monitoring difficult or infrequent. New technologies, such as Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, have emerged to provide information on animal tracking and pasture availability, and could therefore be used to alleviate such problems.

This paper looked at whether GNSS technology could determine grazing preference in beef cattle, and changes in cattle grazing behaviour in response to pasture availability.

What did the research involve?

This study used GNSS collars on cattle to determine cattle grazing preference and animal movement. These GNSS collars provided data on cattle location in the paddock and distance travelled.

  • 20 Charolais cows were placed into an ungrazed paddock for 15 days and each cow was fitted with a GNSS collar from days six to 11
  • pasture/biomass availability of the paddock was determined prior to cattle grazing by a commercial infrared remote sensing tool (i.e. CropCircle system)
  • pasture availability was expressed as a Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)

What were the key findings?

Cattle preferred paddock areas of higher biomass/pasture. There was a decrease in biomass/pasture availability and the daily distance travelled for each cow also increased. As a result, there was an increase in cattle grazing time and an increase in distance travelled by the cattle over the course of the study.

Collectively, these findings show that cattle grazing behaviour changed in response to pasture availability, demonstrating that GNSS collars can not only show animal movement/location, but also highlight areas of low pasture availability.

Final Comment

This study showed that GNSS collars can be used by farmers, particularly those with large or remote properties, as a livestock management tool to assist with paddock utilisation and grazing intensity, to effectively maximise animal production in extensive grazing systems. These collars are quick and simple to use, and are readily available for use by farmers.

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