Influence of BMPs on Cattle Position Preference
ASAE/CSAE Annual International Meeting , 042182 , 2004

Agouridis, C.T., Edwards, D.R., Vanzant, E., Workman, S.R., Bicudo, J.R., Koostra, B.K., Taraba, J.L., Gates, R.S.

The beef industry is an important component of Kentucky’s agriculture accounting for approximately 15% of the state’s agricultural sales in 2000. Dairy also plays a prominent role in Kentucky’s agriculture (state rank of 18th). The state’s significant cattle production occurs primarily on small to mid-sized farms averaging between 25 and 40 head of cattle per operation. Considering this upward trend in cattle production along with Kentucky’s 140,000 km of rivers and streams, rolling pastures and karst geology, the potential for damage to riparian ecosystems from uncontrolled livestock access is high. The objective of this project was to determine the influence of alternate management strategies such as off-stream water, fencing, shade (permanent and movable), and pasture improvements on cattle behavior in grazed pastures of the humid region of the U.S. The project site, located on the University of Kentucky’s Animal Research Center, consisted of two replications of three treatments: control, selected BMPs with free access to the stream, and selected BMPs with limited access to the stream. Cattle placed on the research pastures were fitted with GPS collars to track their positions. The use of GPS collars for tracking animal movements and behaviors eliminates errors often introduced in human observations. GPS collar data was collected at five minute intervals for seven sampling events over a two year period. Results indicated that the BMP systems (i.e. treatments) did not affect cattle position preference, and as such, these BMP systems did not decrease the amount of time cattle spent along the streambanks. However, significant time effects were noted the cooling pasture feature trees as cattle sought relief from the heat and humidity. Increased cattle presence along the streambank during the daytime period was linked to longer day light hours, but the impractical nature of the model indicated that additional independent variables were required. For the nighttime data set, the significant seasonal variable was solar radiation, as decreases in solar radiation resulted in the model predicting that cattle would tend to avoid the pasture feature trees. The majority of non-zero solar radiation values, while relatively small in comparison to the daytime values, were in the periods dividing daytime and nighttime (i.e. dawn and dusk). Thus, the primary driving factor with regards to cattle position preference appeared to be a desire to avoid trees, a pasture feature often associated with loafing, possibly in favor of grazing. While the results of this study indicated that no significant treatment effects were present, the significant time effects suggest that the strategic development of 1) cooling features such as shade, wading ponds or water misters and 2) areas of high forage quality and quantity may influence cattle position preference.