Comparing grazing and resting electivity of beef cattle for BC bunchgrass communities using GPS collars.

Thompson, D.J., Wheatley, B., Church, J.S., Newman, R., and Walker, J. (2015). "Comparing grazing and resting electivity of beef cattle for BC bunchgrass communities using GPS collars.", Canadian Journal of Animal Science, 95(4), pp. 499-507. doi : 10.4141/CJAS-2014-116  Access to full text

Abstract

Grasslands in the interior of British Columbia often contain a mosaic of plant communities that provide variable habitat for free-ranging cattle. Global positioning system (GPS) collars have been used to study natural habitat use by cattle on a coarse scale (such as riparian, grassland and forested habitats), but not on a fine scale (such as choice among grassland plant communities). Cows equipped with GPS collars were tracked during the spring grazing period for 4 yr. Six grassland pastures were used as replicates. The activity (grazing or resting) of cattle at GPS locations was classified using a distance travelled algorithm. A detailed plant community map of five plant community types was constructed, and cow relative use within the plant communities was determined. Electivity, which scales for differences in community area, was used to compare the use of plant communities. While grazing, electivity for the Kentucky bluegrass community (mean +0.3) was greater than for the bluebunch wheatgrass community (mean −0.2). While resting, these differences were more pronounced. GPS collars can be used to estimate fine-scale choices among grassland communities.

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