Effects of number of animals monitored on representations of cattle group movement characteristics and spatial occupancy

Tong Liu, Angela R. Green, Luis F. Rodríguez, Brett C. Ramirez, Daniel W. Shike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The number of animals required to represent the collective characteristics of a group remains a concern in animal movement monitoring with GPS. Monitoring a subset of animals from a group instead of all animals can reduce costs and labor; however, incomplete data may cause information losses and inaccuracy in subsequent data analyses. In cattle studies, little work has been conducted to determine the number of cattle within a group needed to be instrumented considering subsequent analyses. Two different groups of cattle (a mixed group of 24 beef cows and heifers, and another group of 8 beef cows) were monitored with GPS collars at 4 min intervals on intensively managed pastures and corn residue fields in 2011. The effects of subset group size on cattle movement characterization and spatial occupancy analysis were evaluated by comparing the results between subset groups and the entire group for a variety of summarization parameters. As expected, more animals yield better results for all parameters. Results show the average group travel speed and daily travel distances are overestimated as subset group size decreases, while the average group radius is underestimated. Accuracy of group centroid locations and group radii are improved linearly as subset group size increases. A kernel density estimation was performed to quantify the spatial occupancy by cattle via GPS location data. Results show animals among the group had high similarity of spatial occupancy. Decisions regarding choosing an appropriate subset group size for monitoring depend on the specific use of data for subsequent analysis: a small subset group may be adequate for identifying areas visited by cattle; larger subset group size (e.g. subset group containing more than 75% of animals) is recommended to achieve better accuracy of group movement characteristics and spatial occupancy for the use of correlating cattle locations with other environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0113117
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 3 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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