Applying Behavioral Principles

We often see livestock and wildlife as eating “machines” and don't understand that an animal’s history influences its diet and habitat preferences. Animals learn from 1) social interactions with mom, peers, and people, 2) feedback from nutrients and toxins in plants, and 3) interactions with their physical environment including location of water and predators.

Behavioral principles can provide solutions to problems faced by producers and land managers. Unlike the infrastructure of a ranch such as corrals, fences, and water development, behavioral solutions often cost little to implement and are easily transferred from one situation to the next. Unfortunately, we often ignore the power of behavior to improve systems. As animals grow and develop, their interactions with the environment shape their behavior. Experiences early in life are especially critical in shaping behavior but these interactions continue throughout life. Thus, the issue isn't if animals adapt to changes in their environments - they do every day of their lives. The only question is whether or not people want to be a part of that process.

Managers often make changes in management to increase productivity. Unfortunately, these changes can cause temporary decreases in production before improving. Understanding behavior and how to “train” animals to adapt to new situations can lessen these decreases in performance. Below are stories and examples of how managers train their animals to improve efficiency and productivity. If you have a story about training animals, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail me at beth.burritt@usu.edu.

Application Stories

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The bison are in charge of ration-mixing at Iron Mountain Bison Ranch’s feedlot. Average daily weight gains have increased a quarter to a half-pound per head per day. Learn more about bison and ration-mixing.
Bison Take Over Ration-Mixing in Wyoming Feedlot

Bison Take Over Ration-Mixing in Wyoming Feedlot

The bison are in charge of ration-mixing at Iron Mountain Bison Ranch’s feedlot. Average daily weight gains have increased a quarter to a half-pound per head per day. Learn more about bison and ration-mixing.

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Find out how cows on the Rex Ranch in Nebraska ate leafy spurge and how they teach their calves to eat it too.
Cows Eat Leafy Spurge

Cows Eat Leafy Spurge

Find out how cows on the Rex Ranch in Nebraska ate leafy spurge and how they teach their calves to eat it too.

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Cows have culture? Learn more about understanding how livestock and landscape interacted. Find out the culture of cows.
Cows Have Culture Too

Cows Have Culture Too

Cows have culture? Learn more about understanding how livestock and landscape interacted. Find out the culture of cows.

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Learn more about how dairy calves are taught by there mother how to graze.
Dairy Calves Take Grazing Lessons from Mom

Dairy Calves Take Grazing Lessons from Mom

Learn more about how dairy calves are taught by there mother how to graze.

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Many researchers have conducted studies exploring the behavior between cows and their calves. This article discusses how dairy cows train their calves to graze.
Dairy Cows Train Calves to Graze

Dairy Cows Train Calves to Graze

Many researchers have conducted studies exploring the behavior between cows and their calves. This article discusses how dairy cows train their calves to graze.

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Improves Intake of Grain At Weaning and Feedlot Performance.
Exposing Animals to Grain With Mom

Exposing Animals to Grain With Mom

Improves Intake of Grain At Weaning and Feedlot Performance.

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Goats can be averted to grass. Learn how this is done from a seed grower and his experience averting his goats to grass.
Goats Averted to Grass

Goats Averted to Grass

Goats can be averted to grass. Learn how this is done from a seed grower and his experience averting his goats to grass.

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Learn more about heifers, cows, and taking weanlings from Stephen Rogers as he talks about his own experience training weanlings.
Heifers Train Cows

Heifers Train Cows

Learn more about heifers, cows, and taking weanlings from Stephen Rogers as he talks about his own experience training weanlings.

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A livestock producer from Australia coined the term, 'jungle grazing'. Find out more about what jungle grazing is and take a look at some photos of 'jungle grazing'.
Jungle Grazing

Jungle Grazing

A livestock producer from Australia coined the term, 'jungle grazing'. Find out more about what jungle grazing is and take a look at some photos of 'jungle grazing'.

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Explore how human responses and actions affect the animals around you and what you can do about it.
Kiss Your Cows Goodnight

Kiss Your Cows Goodnight

Explore how human responses and actions affect the animals around you and what you can do about it.

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Animals expected to produce and reproduce on poor-quality roughage may be hindered by feeding them high-quality diet early in life. Find out why and the benefits of early exposure to poor-quality foods.
Poor Quality Roughage

Poor Quality Roughage

Animals expected to produce and reproduce on poor-quality roughage may be hindered by feeding them high-quality diet early in life. Find out why and the benefits of early exposure to poor-quality foods.

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Understanding the grazing behavior of livestock can help producers control weeds in crop fields. Find out why and how this happens.
Sheep and Legumes As Partners to Control Crop Weeds

Sheep and Legumes As Partners to Control Crop Weeds

Understanding the grazing behavior of livestock can help producers control weeds in crop fields. Find out why and how this happens.