Understanding landscape use patterns of livestock as a consequence of foraging behavior

Karen L. Launchbaugh, Larry D. Howery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Many grazing-management challenges stem from poor livestock distribution resulting in overuse of some areas and low utilization of others. Managing livestock-distribution patterns requires knowledge of pasture characteristics and animal behavior patterns. Behavioral patterns result from recognizable processes that include inherited attributes, individual and social learning systems, cue-consequence specificity, predispositions toward novel stimuli, and spatial memory. Through these behavioral mechanisms, animals form and revise preferences and aversions for specific locations in their foraging landscape. To accomplish habitat selection, domestic herbivores use sight and sound cues to seek and return to high-quality foraging locations. Nested within habitat selection are learned diet preferences and aversions by which ungulate herbivores associate taste with positive or negative postingestive feedback. The deliberate and careful modification of animal attributes and habitat characteristics could yield options for adaptive rangeland management. In this article, we describe the basic principles that underlie how animals make decisions about where to forage and how long to stay in a particular habitat. We also suggest management practices designed to modify animal behavior and alter habitat-use patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-108
Number of pages10
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • Habitat preferences
  • Habitat selection
  • Livestock distribution
  • Place aversions
  • Place preferences
  • Spatial memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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