Animal behaviour in the sub-tropics. I. Heat tolerance in relation to grazing behaviour in sheep

Shafie, M. M., and M. A. Sharafeldin, "Animal behaviour in the sub-tropics. I. Heat tolerance in relation to grazing behaviour in sheep", Neth. J. Agric. Sci, vol. 13, pp. 1-5, 1965.





Individual differences in shading behaviour within a flock of sheep could be due to differences in thermoregulatory capabilities or to the influence of social factors. The possible influence of social factors on shade-use is examined in this paper.

Two measures of dominance were made on 39 Merino wethers. These were based on the hierarchy determined by butting during feeding and on priority of access to limited feed. Leadership was also assessed while driving the sheep to a woolshed and as the sheep entered weighing scales. These behavioural traits were compared with leadership to shade and shade-use observed on 9 days during summer in a small pastureless enclosure containing natural shade. Maximum ambient temperature on these 9 days varied between 29.0 and 39.5°C.

All behavioural traits examined were significantly repeatable. The two dominance ranks were negatively correlated (P<0.05). The butting hierarchy was correlated with shading behaviour; those sheep that butted the larger proportion of the flock were seen to shade for longer periods of time (P=0.05). This relationship became more significant as environmental temperature increased. Significant (P<0.05) differences in the amount of time each sheep spent shading were evident throughout the flock, but in particular seven individuals shaded much less than others. Shade-use increased in hot weather and was slightly more strongly correlated with radiation load than with air temperature. The non-shading leadership ranks were related neither to each other nor to the leadership to shade. However, the sheep that moved to shade first remained there longest (P<0.05). Reduced motivation to feed did not appear to explain early movement to shade.

Few overtly aggressive or other interactions between animals were seen to be associated with movements to or within shade. Nonetheless, the results indicate that social forces do exert some influence on shade-use.