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Microhabitat selection of free-ranging beef cattle in south-boreal forest

Spedener, Mélanie, Tofastrud, Morten, Devineau, Olivier, Zimmermann, Barbara
Applied animal behaviour science 2019 v.213 pp. 33-39
adults, animal behavior, beef cattle, cows, forestry, forests, global positioning systems, grazing, habitat preferences, livestock husbandry, microhabitats, summer, Norway
Cattle released for summer grazing in south-boreal forest are free to select among a broad range of habitats. The goal of this study was to identify the factors influencing the microhabitat selection of such free-ranging beef cattle, for grazing and resting. We equipped sixteen female adult cows with GPS collars and activity sensors in southeastern Norway during the summer grazing season in 2017. We identified grazing and resting positions based on positioning and activity data. At these positions, we recorded habitat variables following a matched case-control sampling design. We analysed the data using generalized linear mixed models. We found differences in the cattle’s microhabitat selection for grazing and resting. Within a given habitat patch, cattle selected for the most grass-rich site for grazing, whereas they selected for the most grass-rich, the flattest and the most covered site for resting.These findings complement our knowledge on habitat selection of cattle and can be used to design cattle pastures according to the animals needs and to mitigate interest conflicts between livestock husbandry and forestry in communal forested lands in Norway.