Secondary Effects of Behavior-based Pasture Management

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $37,125.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Matthew Stevenson
University of Hawaii

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine, goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: parasite control, grazing management, grazing - multispecies
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research


    Reducing input costs ranks as a high priority among Hawaii farmers and ranchers owing to geographic isolation and associated high shipping costs. Some ranches have applied multi-species stocking as a lower cost alternative to chemical weed control. One ranch has further modified multi-species stocking by implementing a training method to create social bonds between species to aid in herding and improve pasture use efficiency. Modifying livestock behavior to meet management needs more economically may result in secondary effects.

    This study attempted to quantify any effects of eating weeds on parasite burden in goats. While normally readily eaten, goats did not eat enough of Schinus terebinthifolius or Indigoferra suffruticosa offered to note any causal relationships, though there is evidence warranting further study of this approach should the intake issue get resolved. Also, intake of weeds at other sites dropped so much that we could not quantify in situ pasture use effects between weed eating and non-trained livestock as originally intended. We observed significant differences in pasture use by bonded and non-bonded groups of cattle, sheep, and goats, with bonded groups remaining considerably closer together throughout a two-week study period. While we did not collect strong enough information to create management recommendations for these approaches, rancher feedback from outreach efforts were favorable to the methods and concepts. Some ranches have adopted the idea of using forages to augment worm control programs in response to a loss in pharmaceutical anthelmintic efficiency. Future studies should reevaluate Schinus as a potential aid in controlling worms and why it is readily eaten by livestock in certain situations but not others. An in-depth economic analysis should evaluate livestock bonding as a labor or capital investment technique as compared to running separate herds. Livestock bonding may also result in transmission of foraging strategies across species and warrants further evaluation from a pasture use efficiency perspective.

    Project objectives:

    1. Quantify effects of Christmasberry (Schinus terebinthifolius) and indigo (Indigoferra suffruticosa) during wet and dry seasons on internal parasite loads of livestock. Performance Target: Aim to have trials completed by month 12 following project start on all five ranches.
    2. Quantify in situ pasture use relative to parasite loads and weed forage quality in animals trained to eat weeds and in untrained animals. Performance Target: Complete at least two observation periods per ranch by end of month 12 following project start.
    3. Quantify any differences in pasture use by bonded animals compared to non-bonded animals. Performance Target: Complete at least two observation periods at Haleakala Ranch by end of month 12 following project start.
    4. Generate management recommendations for ranchers or describe strengths and weaknesses of behavior-based management programs based on analysis. Performance Target: Publish results and recommendations by month 18 following start. The second year of the project will focus on finishing analysis and outreach efforts through presenting at various producer and professional meetings and field days.

    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.