Can social interactions affect food searching efficiency of cattle?

T. Ksiksi, E. A. Laca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Experienced members of a herd of cattle, referred to as social models in this paper, may play an important part in the searching pattern of naive animals. Naive animals may distribute themselves more evenly because their expectations of preferred areas are not as developed as the expectations of experienced animals. We tested three treatments to investigate if social models tend to transmit information about places of grazing to naive ones or if food distribution tends to be more uniform when animals have less experience with the area. A fenced paddock with 192 trays spaced at about 5 m apart was used to conduct this experiment. Treatment one was the clumped distribution treatment (CDT). Food trays were placed as sets of four. Treatment two was the scattered distribution treatment (SDT). Food trays were placed evenly covering different areas of the paddock. In these two treatments, steers were allowed to find 32 trays with feed in the presence of a social model. Treatment three is a control (CT). Steers were allowed to find 32 trays containing feed with no social model present. The experiment lasted seven days and starting on day four, CDT had a higher FL/NL (ratio of found locations to new locations) than CT (P<0.05). This suggests that naive animals tend to be more efficient in finding preferred food locations in the presence of an experienced model. CDT had a higher FL/NL than SDT on days three, six and seven of the experiment (P<0.05). This suggests that the initial distribution of food affected the searching efficiency of naive animals. Moreover, within three days steers in all three treatments did better than expected by chance in locating food.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-242
Number of pages8
JournalRangeland Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Distribution
  • Grazing
  • Searching
  • Spatial memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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