Access of cattle to waterways has been shown to be a potential cause of poor-water quality, due to nutrients and pathogens deposited via urination and defecation. In addition, cattle can pug the banks of waterways and, thus, cause sediment loss. Although government-imposed regulations to fence waterways currently only applies to dairy cattle in New Zealand, it is likely that some exclusion restrictions will apply to sheep and beef in the future. This is a concern, as there is very little research examining the behaviour of sheep around natural waterways in NZ. Video recordings were made to observe the interaction of mixed-age Romney ewes (n=40) with a natural waterway at Massey University’s hill-country farm Tuapaka. Ewe behaviour and movements were monitored continuously for two weeks using GPS devices and motion-activated trail cameras. Ewes were offered reticulated water (week 2) or were restricted from accessing the water trough (week 1). Riparian zones were accessed by some ewes (n=20) whose behaviours observed appeared to be influenced by time of day and environmental temperature. When in the riparian areas, ewes spent 68% of their time grazing, 15.9% stationary and 2.2% drinking. Access to the water trough had no effect (P>0.05) on the drinking behaviour of ewes. It was concluded that, during winter, although only a small number of sheep drank from waterways, ewes accessed riparian zones to graze. Keywords: behaviour; ewes; waterways; riparian areas
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 80, Online, 124-127, 2020
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