Acoustic analysis: A novel way to measure livestock grazing behavior

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2014: $10,981.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: Virginia Tech
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Gabriel Pent
Dept. of Crop and Soil Environmental Science, Virginia Tech
Major Professor:
John Fike
school of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Va Tech

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: silvopasture

    Proposal abstract:

    Silvopastures involve the intentional, integrated and intensive management of trees, forages, and livestock. Silvopasture systems can provide greater welfare for livestock, improved forage quality and environmental health, and aesthetically pleasing landscapes. Despite the potential benefits of these systems, there is only limited evidence showing how integrating trees with pastures impacts the behavior, nutrition, and ultimately the performance of grazing ruminants managed within temperate, deciduous silvopastures. The data from these studies also can be conflicting. For example, some studies suggest animal performance is similar because increased forage nutrition in silvopastures offsets reductions in forage yield. However, other studies indicate factors such as animal behavior and energy demands may be involved because animal performance in silvopastures is comparable with that from open pastures despite lower forage yield and little difference in forage nutritive value among systems. This study seeks to distinguish between the effects of forage nutrition and animal behavior on sheep performance in silvopastures and open pasture systems. We will couple a novel acoustic monitoring system with GPS positioning data and sheep temperature to determine sheep grazing behavior, movement, and heat load in two silvopasture systems as compared to an open pasture system. This study directly attempts to address the productivity of silvopasture systems by dissecting some of the most critical factors involved in animal nutrition, health, and well-being, and extrapolating which factors have the most significant potential for focus of management strategies.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Develop and apply novel acoustic monitoring systems to quantify lamb grazing behavior in terms of prehensive biting events and rumination; 
    2. Quantify lamb body temperatures diurnally; 
    3. Determine diurnal behavior (and shade utilization in silvopastures) using GPS tracking systems and remote sensing technology; and 
    4. Integrate information on forage quantity and quality with spatial and temporal information on grazing behavior and body temperatures to understand the effects of silvopasture systems on animal performance.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.