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Application of accelerometers to record drinking behaviour of beef cattle

Williams, Lauren R., Bishop-Hurley, Greg J., Anderson, Angela E., Swain, Dave L.
Animal production science 2019 v.59 no.1 pp. 122-132
Brahman, accelerometers, beef cattle, drinking, grazing, head, models, variance, walking, water troughs, yearlings
Accelerometers have been used to record many cattle postures and behaviours including standing, lying, walking, grazing and ruminating but not cattle drinking behaviour. This study explores whether neck-mounted triaxial accelerometers can identify drinking and whether head-neck position and activity can be used to record drinking. Over three consecutive days, data were collected from 12 yearling Brahman cattle each fitted with a collar containing an accelerometer. Each day the cattle were herded into a small yard containing a water trough and allowed 5 min to drink. Drinking, standing (head up), walking and standing (head down) were recorded. Examination of the accelerometer data showed that drinking events were characterised by a unique signature compared with the other behaviours. A linear mixed-effects model identified two variables that reflected differences in head-neck position and activity between drinking and the other behaviours: mean of the z- (front-to-back) axis and variance of the x- (vertical) axis (P < 0.05). Threshold values, derived from Kernel density plots, were applied to classify drinking from the other behaviours using these two variables. The method accurately classified drinking from standing (head up) with 100% accuracy, from walking with 92% accuracy and from standing (head down) with 79% accuracy. The study shows that accelerometers have the potential to record cattle drinking behaviour. Further development of a classification method for drinking is required to allow accelerometer-derived data to be used to improve our understanding of cattle drinking behaviour and ensure that their water intake needs are met.