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Spatiotemporal Cattle Data—A Plea for Protocol Standardization

Dean M. Anderson, Rick E. Estell, Andres F. Cibils
Positioning 2013 v.4 no.1 pp. 115-136
animal behavior, cattle, ecosystems, electronic equipment, geographic information systems, global positioning systems, landscapes, models, satellites, spatial data
It was not until the end of the 1990’s that animal born satellite receiver’s catapulted range cattle ecology into the 21st century world of microchip technology with all of its opportunities and challenges. With the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) insight into how cattle use a landscape is being revealed from previously secrete temporal and spatial behaviors. The most common system to date deployed for studying ungulates is known as the global positioning system (GPS). With its use has come a clarity and completeness in documenting spatial and temporal data in new and exciting ways that offer almost unlimited possibilities to better understand and manage both the economic as well as societal returns from animal dominated landscapes required to provide multiple goods and services. However, its use on free-ranging cattle is not without challenges, some of which are yet to be optimally solved. To maximize the usefulness of GNSS data consideration must be given to: developing a standardized protocol for reporting and analyzing research that facilitates the interpretation of results across different ecosystems, develop optimum ranges over which to collect satellite fixes depending upon the particular behaviors of interest, and concurrently develop electronic hardware and equipment platforms that are easily deployed on animals that are light, robust and capable of being worn by cattle for extended periods of time without the need for human intervention especially to change batteries. Once the data are collected appropriate geographic information system (GIS) based models should be used to produce a series of visually observable flexible management strategies, some of which may support methodologies that are yet to be commercialized and adopted into future plant-animal interface management routines.