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    Livestock often concentrate grazing in particular regions of landscapes while partly or wholly avoiding other regions. Dispersing livestock from the heavily grazed regions is a central challenge in grazing land management. Position data gathered from GPS-collared livestock hold potential for increasing knowledge of factors driving livestock aggregation patterns, but advances in gathering the data have outpaced advancements in analyzing and learning from it. We fit a hierarchical seemingly unrelated regression (SUR) model to explore how season of stocking and the location where cattle entered a pasture influenced grazing distributions. Stocking alternated between summer on one side of the pasture one year and fall on another side of the pasture the next year for 18 years. Waypoints were recorded on cattle for 50 d each year. We focused our analysis on the pasture's 10 most heavily grazed 4-ha units, because these units were the most prone to negative grazing impacts. Though grazing of the study units was always disproportionately heavy, it was much heavier with the summer than fall stocking regime: Bayesian confidence intervals indicate summer grazing of study units was approximately double the average fall grazing value. This is our core result, and it illustrates the strong effect stocking season or date or both can have on grazing distributions. We fit three additional models to explore the relative importance of stocking season versus location. According to this analysis, stocking season played a role, but stocking location was the main driver. Ostensibly minor factors (e.g. stocking location) can greatly influence livestock distributions.

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    Rinella, Matthew J.; Vavra, Martin; Naylor, Bridgett J.; Boyd, Jennifer M. 2011. Estimating influence of stocking regimes on livestock grazing distributions. Ecological Modelling. 222: 619-625.


    animal position data, grazing, livestock, cattle stocking, seemingly unrelated regression models, SUR models, deferred grazing

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