Save money, time, & benefit the land using livestock behavior to your advantage
The BEHAVE research and outreach program synthesizing years of research into livestock behavior principles. By understanding and manipulating why livestock behave as they do, managers can use livestock’s natural inclinations to accomplish land management goals, like, managing for weeds, enhancing biodiversity, minimizing the use of riparian areas, reducing the need for expensive feed, and much more.
More available on the BEHAVE site, including information on:
- The economics of behavior
- Applying the principles of behavior
- Fact sheets – including training livestock to avoid certain forages, increase use of unpalatable plants, using livestock to increase biodiversity, and much more.
Collaborators include, Fred Provenza, Juan Villalba, Beth Burritt, Roger Banner, Mark Brunson, Andrea Clemensen, Ashley Hansen, Rae Ann Hart, Tiffanny Lyman, Brody Maughan, and Chuck Petersen.
Behavior Depends On Consequences
Positive consequences increases the likelihood of an animal repeating a behavior and negative consequences decreases the likelihood of an animal repeating a behavior. Positive consequences have fewer negative side effects.
Mother Knows Best
An animal’s mother has the greatest influence on the foods an animal chooses to eat and where it chooses to live. Once trained, animals will pass new behaviors on to their offspring automatically.
Early Experiences Matter Most
The behavior of animals changes throughout their lives based on experience. Animals are more likely to try new things, including foods, early in life. Experience can change the an animal’s physiology, neurology, the structure of its body even gene expression.
Animals Must Learn How to Forage
Believe it or not animals actually have to learn how to eat. Young animals acquire foraging skills more quickly early in life than older animals.
Animals Avoid Unfamiliar Foods
Animals don’t like to eat new foods. Eating new foods is risky because they may be toxic. As long as animals have plenty of familiar, nutritious foods to eat, they generally avoid eating new foods.
Palatability Depends on Feedback from Nutrients and Toxins in Food
When an animal eats a food, it is digested releasing nutrients and toxins. These compounds are absorbed and travel to the cells and organs of the body. Signals are then sent back to the brain to tell it how well a food meets the animal’s nutritional needs. The brain then pairs the food’s flavor with it’s benefits, toxicity or lack of benefits to the body.
Nutrients Increase Palatability
Animals learn to eat foods that are nutritious and avoid foods that are low in nutrients. Their bodies tell them which foods are which based on feedback from the gut.
Toxins Decrease Palatability
Animals learn to avoid foods that are toxic. Their bodies tell them which foods are harmful based on feedback from the gut.
Changes in Food Preferences are Automatic
Think animals can’t be this smart? Changes in palatability occur automatically due to feedback. Animals don’t need to think about or remember feedback from the food. Even when animals are asleep, feedback still changes palatability.
Toxins Set a Limit on Intake
In most cases, animals only eat small quantities of plants that contain toxins because toxins in plants set a limit on intake. Most toxins do not cause death or obvious sign of illness instead they keep animals from overeating any one plant.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Providing animals with a variety of foods on pastures, rangelands and in feedlots allows them to avoid toxins and balance diets to meet their own unique needs for nutrients.
Everybody is an Individual
Individuals within a species vary widely in their ability to tolerate toxins and their need for nutrients.