Measuring resource use in sheep with proximity logger technology

John Broster, Rebecca E Doyle

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstract


Proximity loggers were attached to all 48 adult Merino ewes (1-9 yr old) in their home paddock (3.04 ha) for a larger study looking at social relationships between individual sheep. Proximity loggers were also placed at the only water trough in the paddock and the tree most commonly used for shade between December 6 and 12, 2012 to investigate the use of these resources. Whenever one unit was within approximately 4 m of another unit, a distance that is common to published studies, the loggers recorded both the time and duration of that contact. Over the seven days, the 48 sheep visited the trough on 1340 different occasions with over 98% of the visits occurring between 0600 h and 0900 h, and 1400 h and 2100 h, and no animals visited the trough between 1000 h and 1300 h or 2100 h and 0400 h. The number of visits per day per animal ranged from 0 to 14, with 81% of the 336 ewe/day combinations (48 ewes x 7 days) recording between 1 and 6 visits per day. The average time spent at the trough per visit was 31.7 s (range 1 to 266 seconds) with only 231 visits (17%) lasting longer than one minute. The animals were recorded as being under or near the tree on 16,861 occasions, and 99% of these occurred between 0500 h and 1500 h. The number of visits to the tree per day ranged from 0 to 233 (mean 50.6), with an average length visit of 16.5 s and the longest 25 min. Older ewes (7 years and older) spent less time at the trough than younger ewes (4 years and younger) (P < 0.01), but there was no effect of age on the number of trough visits, time spent under the tree, or the number of visits. All ewes spent more time at the trough for the first four days than the last three days (P < 0.001), while more time was spent under the tree between December 8 and 10 than the four other days (P < 0.001). Higher daily temperatures correlated to increased utilisation of the tree, with the temperature at 0900 h providing the highest correlation for the time spent under the tree (r = 0.81, P < 0.05), and number of visits (r = 0.91, P < 0.01). There was no significant correlation (P > 0.05) between daily temperature and trough utilisation (visits r = -0.24; time r = -0.28). This was in opposition to the hypothesis that as temperature increased, time spent at the trough increased. It is probable however that the proximity loggers may have recorded more visits to the tree than actually occurred, and under recorded the duration of the visits. When sheltering under the tree the ewes were lying or standing very close to each other, possibly blocking the signals between the loggers on the ewes and the logger placed in the tree. In order to further investigate this hypothesis, behavioural observations need to be undertaken to accurately correlate the proximity logger data with actual behaviour. The results nevertheless suggest that proximity logger technology can be used to measure resource use, but that it needs to be well-validated to ensure accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventProceedings of the 4th Australian and New Zealand Spatially Enabled Livestock Management Symposium - University of Sydney, Camden, Australia
Duration: 26 Sep 201327 Sep 2013


ConferenceProceedings of the 4th Australian and New Zealand Spatially Enabled Livestock Management Symposium
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