Behavioral Adaptations of Nursing Brangus Cows to Virtual Fencing: Insights from a Training Deployment Phase

Shelemia Nyamuryekung'e*, Andrew Cox, Andres Perea, Richard Estell, Andres Cibils, JP Holland, A. Waterhouse, Glen Duff, Micah Funk, Matthew McIntosh, Sheri Spiegal, Brandon Bestelmeyer, Santiago Utsumi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Virtual fencing systems have emerged as a promising technology for managing the distribution of livestock in extensive grazing environments. This study provides comprehensive documentation of the learning process involving two conditional behavioral mechanisms and the documentation of efficient, effective, and safe animal training for virtual fence applications on nursing Brangus cows. Two hypotheses were examined: (1) animals would learn to avoid restricted zones by increasing their use of containment zones within a virtual fence polygon, and (2) animals would progressively receive fewer audio-electric cues over time and increasingly rely on auditory cues for behavioral modification. Data from GPS coordinates, behavioral metrics derived from the collar data, and cueing events were analyzed to evaluate these hypotheses. The results supported hypothesis 1, revealing that virtual fence activation significantly increased the time spent in containment zones and reduced time in restricted zones compared to when the virtual fence was deactivated. Concurrently, behavioral metrics mirrored these findings, with cows adjusting their daily travel distances, exploration area, and cumulative activity counts in response to the allocation of areas with different virtual fence configurations. Hypothesis 2 was also supported by the results, with a decrease in cueing events over time and increased reliance with animals on audio cueing to avert receiving the mild electric pulse. These outcomes underscore the rapid learning capabilities of groups of nursing cows in responding to virtual fence boundaries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3558
Number of pages14
JournalAnimals
Volume13
Issue number22
Early online date17 Nov 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - Nov 2023

Keywords

  • virtual fence; conditional behavior; animal tracking; precision livestock farming; GPS location; accelerometer and activity
  • conditional behavior
  • precision livestock farming
  • GPS location
  • animal tracking
  • accelerometer and activity
  • virtual fence

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