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

    Proposal abstract:

    To improve the understanding of how conditioning livestock behavior to meet ranch objectives affects pasture use we propose tracking trained livestock via GPS collars, assessing internal parasite infection of trained livestock and monitoring forage quality on ranches in Hawaii through implementing behavior-based management approaches.

    At the 2008 Hawaii Sub-regional Western SARE conference, ranchers and farmers identified increasing locally grown grass-fed beef and reducing farm inputs among the types of research, education and production improvement they need over the next 5-10 years. Pasture weeds hamper Hawaii ranchers’ profitability by reducing the amount of useable forage and imposing high management costs.

    To reduce or eliminate expensive inputs such as herbicide application, some cattle ranchers are turning to multi-species grazing to leverage differences in foraging preferences to control weeds. A handful of innovative ranchers are implementing other principles of behavior-based management developed by the Behavioral Education for Human, Animal, Vegetation, and Ecosystem Management (BEHAVE) Network to improve weed management even further. Specifically, ranchers are training animals to eat weeds typically avoided by all classes of grazers and to form interspecies bonds for ease in management and predator protection. The secondary effects of directly modifying animal behavior on landscape-level pasture use has not been described in the tropics and has received nominal attention elsewhere. Furthermore, internal parasite loads are a major management concern throughout the tropics, particularly in small ruminants. To secure the efficacy of synthetic anthelmintic drugs and to lower costs of production by reducing their use, ranchers and researchers are searching for plants with anti-parasitic qualities.

    We propose to test the hypothesis that weeds with certain secondary compounds may lower internal parasite loads in livestock by comparing fecal egg counts of animals trained to eat weeds to untrained animals. If any of the target weeds show potentially anthelmintic qualities, we will conduct feeding trials to further evaluate efficacy. We will also evaluate individual animal parasite infection rate and pasture use. By understanding how behavioral training and internal parasite loads affect livestock use of the pasture in space and time, land managers can better predict downstream effects of this management approach or identify potential unintended consequences.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Quantify effects of certain pasture plants 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.