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Movement orders in spontaneous group movements in cattle: 6-year monitoring of a beef cow herd with changing composition

Abstract

Few studies have investigated group movements of domestic ungulates in farming conditions where the groups are subjected to repeated composition changes across years. We stocked a beef cow herd (23–34 cows; some with a calf) maintained in a farm in a grazing plot comprising two subplots, and monitored inter-subplot movements of cows on 39 days for 6 years. Movements of the entire cow herd, pooled over the two directions, occurred 4–23 times daily. Time required for individual movements ranged from < 1 to 34 min, with nearly 90% of the movements being completed within 10 min. Daily movement orders of cows were consistent (Kendall’s W = 0.13–0.36, P < 0.05) on 34 days out of the 39, with some cows appearing in the first three (front) or last three (rear) positions more frequently than the chance (binomial P < 0.05). The front- and rear-positioned cows did not differ (P ≥ 0.05) in age, body weight, years from the first introduction into the herd, days from the last calving, days in pregnancy, or proportion of days with a calf. More studies are needed to understand the factors affecting leadership to use this trait for management of herd movements.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Koji Onda, Yuichiro Tanaka, Shinnosuke Mizuno, Takayuki Ishimaru, Shiori Iso, Mami Ito, Tomomi Tanikawa, Yuka Matsumoto, Shinya Izumi, Shotaro Kubo, Nozomi Takeno, Eri Imagawa, Yui Soga, Fuki Hirota, Ai Matsubara, Karin Yamada, Keishi Tanaka, Moeko Uchimura, Yui Shiraishi, Chihiro Tomita, Takayoshi Saito, Chie Arimoto, Tomoe Ikegami, Hiroyasu Inoue, Yuki Oshige, Rune Oda, Chihiro Shibata, Yuri Hatanaka and Naofumi Yoshida for field assistance; Kiichi Fukuyama, Ikuo Kobayashi and Koichiro Henmi for animal management; Yosuke Sasaki for culling age information; and M Anowarul Islam for review of the manuscript.

Funding

This work was partly supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 23580371; to M. Hirata in 2011–2014).

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Correspondence to Masahiko Hirata.

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The present study consisted of observations of cows managed in farm practice and did not include any experimental handlings or treatments of animals except for painting of identification numbers on the sides of the body. The study was approved by the authors’ institution (University of Miyazaki).

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Hirata, M., Hamada, M., Kawagoe, I. et al. Movement orders in spontaneous group movements in cattle: 6-year monitoring of a beef cow herd with changing composition. J Ethol 39, 275–286 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-021-00700-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-021-00700-7

Keywords

  • Cattle
  • Collective movement
  • Movement order
  • Farming conditions
  • Fluid herd composition