Opportunities for telemetry techniques in studies on the nutritional ecology of free-ranging domesticated ruminants

D L Swain, Michael Friend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


A number of recent studies have integrated detailed spatial assessments of vegetation using on-ground sampling and satellite remote sensing; these data have been linked to behavioural preferences of herbivores. Although the recent studies still do not address nutritional interactions over months or years, they do point to methods that could be used to address landscape scale nutritional interactions. Emerging telemetry techniques used to monitor herbivore behavioural preferences and also to determine detailed landscape vegetation mapping provide the opportunity for future herbivore nutritional ecology studies.The principles of domestic herbivore nutrition are well understood and have been developed through detailed physiological studies, although methods to accurately measure field-based intake still challenge herbivore nutrition research. Nutritional ecology considers an animal's interaction with the environment based on its nutritional demands. Although there are a number of theoretical frameworks that can be used to explore nutritional ecology, optimal foraging provides a suitable starting point. Optimal foraging models have progressed from deterministic techniques to spatially explicit agent-based simulation methods. The development of optimal foraging modelling points towards opportunities for field-based research to explore behavioural preferences within studies that have an array of nutritional choices that vary both spatially and temporally. A number of techniques including weighing animals, weighing herbage, using markers (both natural and artificial) and sampling forage, using oesophageal-fistulated animals, have been used to determine intake in the field. These intake measurement techniques are generally most suited to studies that occur over a few days and with relatively small (often less than 10) groups of animals. Over the last 10 years, there have been a number of advances in automated behavioural monitoring technology (e.g. global positioning systems) to track animal movement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-131
Number of pages9
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

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