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Maximez, Diana, 2024. Cattle (Bos taurus) behaviour and cortisol responses to electric fence and virtual fence in semi-natural pastures : including Swedish farmers’ views and attitudes towards electrical fence and virtual fence technology. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry



Virtual fence technology (VFT) that allows grazing livestock to be controlled without physical barriers, is a hot topic in today's farming industry. Several nations such as Norway, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Spain have legalised the practice, but Sweden has not yet done so. The Swedish Board of Agriculture, which is in charge of deciding whether to change the legislation to allow virtual fence (VF) technology in Sweden for commercial use, has asked for more research to be carried out in Sweden to learn more about whether and how VFT affects animal welfare, with an emphasis on inter-individual variation.
The project's main aim was to assess the behaviour and cortisol responses in two groups of 12-month heifers when released in a pasture with an electrical fence (EF) compared to when a VF was activated five days after pasture release. For 12 days, the effects of two treatments on seven heifers each were compared in semi-natural pastures in Uppland, Sweden. All animals were naïve to grazing, EF and VF. The treatments were: (a) transport and pasture release with a physical electrical tape fence from day 1–12, and (b) transport and pasture release with a physical EF day 1-5, and one VF border and three physical EF sides for day 6-12. The VF-collars were used in both groups that registered each individual's activity level, and the total number of pulses was collected through the collars to assess the treatment's impact. Additionally, faeces samples were taken from both groups before and during the study to measure faecal cortisol levels. The cattle in the VF group received electrical pulses for the first two days after activation of the VF. From day 1 (mean 10) to day 2 (mean 3) there was a decrease in amount of received pulses. Within two days of the virtual border being activated, two members of the VF group were excluded because they had achieved the study's endpoint for the number of pulses. No individually significant variations in the quantity of pulses were noted for the remaining members of the VF group. The cortisol levels in both groups showed significant differences between the groups VF and EF, but none between individuals within the groups. There were also some significant differences in activity levels between VF and EF on the majority of the days after the VF border was activated.
The experiment's second goal was to obtain information about Swedish farmers' attitudes (n=79) and concerns about EFs and VFs for managing grazing livestock. The findings show that the majority (52%) are not satisfied with their electrical fence, they stated that it was laborious in time to put up new fences and maintenance of the fence (72%). Furthermore, most respondents (60%) were inclined to incorporate VFT in their practice, and the majority (62%) stated that this would enable them to graze bigger areas than they presently can.

Main title:Cattle (Bos taurus) behaviour and cortisol responses to electric fence and virtual fence in semi-natural pastures
Subtitle:including Swedish farmers’ views and attitudes towards electrical fence and virtual fence technology
Authors:Maximez, Diana
Supervisor:Jansson, Anna and Nielsen, Per Peetz and Wahlund, Lotten
Examiner:Roman, Erika
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2024
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:None
Supervising department:(VH) > Dept. of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry
Keywords:activity, behaviour, cattle, cortisol, electric fence, farmers, questionary, stress, virtual fence
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Deposited On:03 Apr 2024 10:11
Metadata Last Modified:04 Apr 2024 01:01

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