Cattle Temporal & Spatial Distribution in Midwestern Pastures Using Global Positioning (A Three-Year Progress Report)

  • Douglas A. Bear (Iowa State University)
  • James R. Russell (Iowa State University)
  • Daniel G. Morrical (Iowa State University)


Eight pastures on five southern Iowa cow-calf farms were used to evaluate the effects of pasture characteristics and microclimatic conditions on cattle grazing cool-season grass pastures with streams and/or ponds. Pastures ranged from 19 to 309 acres and contained varying proportions of cool-season grasses, legumes, sedge, broadleaf weeds, brush, and bare ground. The percentages of pasture area that were shaded ranged from 19 to 73%. Cows were Angus and Angus-Cross on seven of the pastures, and Mexican Corriente on the remaining pasture. In spring, summer, and fall of 2007, 2008, and 2009, 2 to 3 cows per pasture were fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars to record position at 10 minute intervals for periods of 5 to 14 days. Ambient temperature, black globe temperature, dew point, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction were collected with HOBO data loggers at ten minute intervals over the 2007, 2008, and 2009 grazing seasons on each farm. Streams, ponds, and fence lines were referenced on a geospatial map and used to establish zones in the pastures. Designated zones were: in the stream or pond, within 100 feet, or greater than 100 ft (uplands) from the stream or pond (water source). One hundred thirty-nine data sets were obtained throughout the three-year project. Mean proportions of observations when cattle were in the water source differed (P<0.0001) between farms, but not between seasons (P=0.5824). Mean proportions of time cattle spent within 100, or greater 100 ft of the water source differed (P<0.0001) among farms. The proportion of time cattle were within the streamside zone (defined as being in the water source or within 100 feet of the water source) increased with increasing ambient temperature, increasing the proportion of streamside zone within a pasture, increasing the proportion of total pasture shade within the streamside zone, and decreasing pasture size. Therefore, implementation of grazing management practices for the protection of pasture streams are more likely to be effective on small and/or narrow pastures in which cattle have less opportunity to locate in upland locations.

Keywords: ASL R2508

How to Cite:

Bear, D. A., Russell, J. R. & Morrical, D. G., (2010) “Cattle Temporal & Spatial Distribution in Midwestern Pastures Using Global Positioning (A Three-Year Progress Report)”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 7(1). doi:

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Published on
01 Jan 2010
Peer Reviewed