A GEO-VISUAL ANALYTICS APPROACH TO BIOLOGICAL SHEPHERDING: MODELLING ANIMAL MOVEMENTS AND IMPACTS
Keywords: Geo-visual analytics, biological shepherding, nitrogen emissions, spatial analysis, agent-oriented modelling
Abstract. The lamb industry in Victoria is a significant component of the state economy with annual exports in the vicinity of $1 billion. GPS and visualisation tools can be used to monitor grazing animal movements at the farm scale and observe interactions with the environment. Modelling the spatial-temporal movements of grazing animals in response to environmental conditions provides input for the design of paddocks with the aim of improving management procedures, animal performance and animal welfare. The term "biological shepherding" is associated with the re-design of environmental conditions and the analysis of responses from grazing animals. The combination of biological shepherding with geo-visual analytics (geo-spatial data analysis with visualisation) provides a framework for improving landscape design and supports research in grazing behaviour in variable landscapes, heat stress avoidance behaviour during summer months, and modelling excreta distributions (with respect to nitrogen emissions and nitrogen return for fertilising the paddock). Nitrogen losses due to excreta are mainly in the form of gaseous emissions to the atmosphere and leaching into the groundwater. In this study, background and context are provided in the case of biological shepherding and tracking animal movements. Examples are provided of recent applications in regional Australia and New Zealand. Based on experimental data and computer simulation, and using data visualisation and feature extraction, it was demonstrated that livestock excreta are not always randomly located, but concentrated around localised gathering points, sometimes separated by the nature of the excretion. Farmers require information on the nitrogen losses in order to reduce emissions to meet local and international nitrogen leaching and greenhouse gas targets and to improve the efficiency of nutrient management.