Lasering-in on livestock behaviour
The use of laser technology to provide new insights into animal behaviour could lead to improved livestock management practices, according to the leader of a Rockhampton-based CSIRO Livestock Industries research group, Dr Dave Swain.
In a recent trial, Livestock and Environment Group researchers used a survey laser to monitor and record the movement of cows and calves around a paddock.
"The laser allowed us to track the animals without physically handling them, so we didnt disrupt their natural behaviour or welfare," Dr Swain says.
Mounted on a scaffolding tower about 250m from the animals, the laser fires low-level radiation beams which are deflected off animals to a data recorder which calculates their distance from the laser.
Dr Swain says the technology - and spatial data arising from its use - promises to provide accurate and detailed behavioural information for improved livestock management.
"Now that weve established that this non-invasive technology works, well be able to use it to derive meaningful information about how animals use their environment, and features such as water and supplements, and how they interact with each other," he says.
"For example, we could look at how the behaviour of a cow impacts on calf development and productivity. If there is a relationship, we could potentially improve productivity by selecting cows for their ability to be good mothers."
Information on how animals use their pasture as they move around paddocks, could also help scientists devise ways to improve livestock growth rates and avoid environmental degradation.
Dr Swain says the lasers will complement and enhance other research tools aimed at understanding behavioural grazing strategies, cow-calf interactions, and the impact of animals on the environment.
Dr Dave Swain, CSIRO Livestock Industries, 07 4923 8125
Veronica Toohey, CSIRO Livestock Industries, 07 3214 2960
Bill Stephens | CSIRO Media
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