EGU24-6526, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Seasonal movement behavior of goats related to grazing intensity and environmental variability using Hidden Markov Models

Hua Cheng1,2, Kasper Johansen1, Baocheng Jin3, and Matthew Francis McCabe1
Hua Cheng et al.
  • 1Climate and Livability Initiative, Division of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia (
  • 2School of Tourism, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang 453007, China (
  • 3College of Animal Science, Guizhou University, Guiyang 550025 China (

Key research in movement ecology is investigating shifts in animal behavior and identifying the factors that induce alterations in movement behavior and mechanics. The impact of natural environments and human activities on the underlying behavioral processes of domestic goats are still being elucidated. We applied seasonal multivariate Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) to characterize the fine-scale movements (30- second intervals) of GPS-tracked Zhongwei goats for 124 days and determine how grazing intensity, seasonal food resources, terrain factors and daylight hours affect movement behavior in the mountain grassland in China. We classified the goats’ activities as two basic behavioral states of foraging (low step length, varied and undirected turning angle) and travelling (long step lengths, low and directed turning angles). Grazing intensity, a management factor, exerted the most significant influence on goats across different seasons. Additionally, factors such as daylight hour and slope had a more pronounced impact on their movement activities compared to the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Elevation and solar radiation were found not explain much of the variability in movement behavior of goats. Their probability of foraging behavior was most likely to increase with grazing intensity, slope, diurnal hours and NDVI. In addition, the percentage time allocation of foraging was higher in spring and winter with lower food resources periods and shorten daylight hours, than summer and autumn with larger food resources and long daylight hours. The foraging percentage increased from morning to afternoon. HMMs are found useful for disentangling movement behavior and understanding how goats respond to seasonal grazing intensity, time of daylight, NDVI and slope. Our findings underscore the importance of accounting for interactions between movement behavior and gazing management, not only the environmental factors and behavioral rhythms, when assessing the movement characteristics and behavioral transitions of goats. These results are important for designing grazing management strategies that satisfy ecological and socioeconomic demands on mountain grassland ecosystems.

How to cite: Cheng, H., Johansen, K., Jin, B., and McCabe, M. F.: Seasonal movement behavior of goats related to grazing intensity and environmental variability using Hidden Markov Models, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-6526,, 2024.