Summertime use of natural versus artificial shelter by cattle in nature reserves

Eva Van laer, Bart Ampe, Christel Moons, Bart Sonck, Jürgen Vangeyte, Frank Tuyttens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingC3: Conference Abstractpeer-review


Cattle grazing nature reserves may encounter aversive weather conditions, including heat-load in summer. Whether artificial shelter (AS) should be provided in addition to natural shelter (NS; vegetation) is debated. We aim to determine how climatic factors affect cattle’s summertime use of AS vs. NS.

In eight reserves with an AS and varying vegetation cover, GPS-collars monitored 24h terrain-use of one animal during one (n=2) or two (n=6) summers. We plotted animal positions on digital maps to determine when cows used open area (OA), NS and AS (including 5m around them). Weather-stations provided open-field climatic measurements and calculations of heat-stress indices, for example, the Heat Load Index (HLI).

The general preferences and circadian patterns in use of OA, NS and AS were graphed.
The use of OA was related to wind-direction by mixed-model ANOVA and to other climatic variables by mixed logistic regressions.

In most reserves cattle used less OA and more NS during the daytime.
In each reserve, AS covered <0.5% of the area. In six reserves it was also used <0.5% of the time (mean±SE=0.10±0.05%). In the most sparsely vegetated and another – the most vegetated - reserve, AS was used 9.5% and 2.5% of the time, respectively (both mainly during daytime).

Use of OA was significantly but differently influenced by wind-direction in seven reserves, decreased with increasing wind-speed (P<0.01, n=5) and rain-intensity (P≤0.01, n=4) in most reserves, and always decreased with increasing HLI (P<0.001).

Additional mixed logistic regressions show that in the most vegetated reserve increasing HLI increases the use of NS vs. AS steeply vs. minimally, respectively (P<0.0001). In the least vegetated reserve increasing HLI decreases vs. increases the use of NS vs. AS (P<0.0001).

These findings suggest that sheltering behaviour of cattle is reserve-dependent, but influenced by heat-load in all studied reserves. If sufficient NS is available, cattle probably rather use this than AS for protection. If little NS is available cattle use AS. The need for additional protection against heat-load for cattle in nature reserves thus seems to depend on the availability of NS.
Translated title of the contributionZomergebruik van natuurlijke versus artificiële beschutting door runderen in natuurgebieden
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 48th Congress of the International Society for Applied ethology : Moving on
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationVitoria-Gasteiz
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Publication date29-Jul-2014
ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-245-0
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-797-4
Publication statusPublished - 29-Jul-2014
EventISAE 2014 - Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
Duration: 29-Jul-20142-Aug-2014

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