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  • The initial submission of this article was received on April 19th, 2016 and was peer-reviewed by 2 reviewers and the Academic Editor.
  • The Academic Editor made their initial decision on May 8th, 2016.
  • The first revision was submitted on May 17th, 2016 and was reviewed by the Academic Editor.
  • A further revision was submitted on May 27th, 2016 and was reviewed by the Academic Editor.
  • The article was Accepted by the Academic Editor on May 29th, 2016.

Version 0.3 (accepted)

· May 29, 2016 · Academic Editor


Thanks for your response to the comments, it is now ready for acceptance.

Version 0.2

· May 23, 2016 · Academic Editor

Minor Revisions

Thanks for the thorough response to all comments. I have just a handfull of additional minor corrections to the text and then it will be ready for acceptance. Please note the Line numbers refer to the document with the track changes:

L140: ... Repunte-Bajo (RB), Frison-Guanaco (FG), and Side (S)...
L159: remove 'a' before the percentages (three times)
L164: and colour according to sheep class
L165: sampling periods, and the sheep wore the collars almost
L169: and age were measured
L170: sampling period. BCS ranged from
L171: 0 permanent teeth, ... 8 permanent teeth). ...
L175: as flocks with two sheep classes
L179: To assess if patterns of landscape use by sheep are more
L180: animals graze in
L188: the flock was divided according to sheep class (see...
L242: can be found in
L274: (especially for low production...
L330: may be due to
L351: besides generating
L357: findings would have been related ... , we would expect to find similar results if we would have removed ewes as when we would have removed wethers...
L363: animals'

Version 0.1 (original submission)

· May 8, 2016 · Academic Editor

Minor Revisions

Towards evenly distributed grazing patterns: Inclusion of social context in sheep management strategies.

This is really a nice work and moderate revisions to improve readability are suggested by myself and the reviewers:

L21: categories were not introduced yet and I would substitute this for something like “social Rank”
L22: I would also here remove “(determined by sheep category)”
L25: sheep grazed in more heterogeneous flocks, grazing petterns
L32: such as rotational grazing, and the use of guardian dogs to decrease (…) on more risky habitats. This does not imply
L38: I would reword the keyword “livestock selectivity”
L43: that besides holding key
L44: socio-economically a vast proportion of the human population
L48: These heterogeneous patterns of space use
L57: on individual fitness
L58: from conspecifics’ experiencese
L66: is established, higher-rank
L69-78: please reword this. You already give away the aim AND conclusions. Just briefly write the aim.
L69: of including the animals’ social context
L92: could you describe what is “litter accumulation”?
L131: I miss a reference to the GPS collars, the brand, etc.
L132: I would not give the percentage to 2 decimals, but to one or none.
L138: When was body condition score measured?
L143: without a sheep category? You call it 2-category because there are two included. I find the term “category” very unclear and I wonder if you could rephrase that or very clearly describe what you mean by that. It refers to ewes, hoggets and wethers, right?
L144: Because our research was conducted
L145: I would stick with the non-regulated animals and delete the “no experiment performed” because this is technically only true if you don’t manipulate them, but you did.
L147 and on: this part is very hard to follow, please rewrite. You have data on three categories but it is not clear if these include the same animals, or animal groups, or whether these are very distinct groups. I believe to understand that the 2-categories are the same animals but during different times in the management period? Instead of writing “to assess if sheep landscape use patterns are more evenly distributed” I would just state the data that you have available and try to be more clear, maybe even including a table.
L164: of 6 sheep
L165: of 8 sheep
L169: double the GPS locations
L171-173: this is “data analysis”
L175: availability vs. use of resources
L212: I would also rewrite this a little. Instead of writing that heterogeneous flocks used the space more evenly, I would describe that they do (delete “more” on lines 212 and 221). The second paragraph then describes what happens when you take out one category two times and from that follows a discussion.
L219: sheep selection is the selection of sheep. Rephrase this.
L225: were removed, the selection patterns were similar
L227: when ewes were removed, it resulted
L237: flocks consisted of sheep from
L239: this evenly distributed
L240: that would be interesting to see if ‘forcing’ the less dominant group to the lesser quality shrubs would significantly reduce their performance.
L242: we noticed a shift from an evenly (…) toward a more selective one when dominant individuals
L248: and we propose that
L249: strategies in addition to the rest of
L254: could be indicating the establishment of a
L255: in which ewes are located at
L264: ranked individuals respond by
L265: focused on dominance
L276: we did not find evidence for the potential
L277: may be due
L280: on homogeneous flocks that
L285: the case in our
L287-292: This is really a repetition of what you already stated. It sounds like you are summarizing, but the conclusion section follows on the next page. I would take this out.
L294: pattern may eventually
L300-303: This is a concluding note but again, the conclusion still follows on the next page. I would merge this with that concluding section.
L303: and provide information
L309: could be controlled
L310: as a potential tool for
L311: The use of several management tools have been proposed to homogenize
L314: ,however, most of these tools require
L318: In this work, we are suggesting
L320: the need for reducing
L321: investments in labour and materials. Managing more heterogeneous

I believe the length of the conclusion section can be reduced somewhat because there are quite a few repetitions of the same information.
Also: I understand it correctly that you have no levels of significance in your results, right?


Basic reporting

This is a well-written and interesting manuscript. It is acceptable for publication after revision. Points to consider are:

1. Line 18: capitalize Merino
2. Line 24: Change throughout the manuscript, the word “profitable” to “desirable” or some other adjective. Profitable connotes economic considerations, which was not a factor in this study.
3. Line 24: Change throughout the manuscript, the word “sub-optimal” to “less desirable” or some other adjective. This descriptor should be relative to the descriptor noted in #2.
4. Line 32: Change “proposal” to “practice”.
5. Line 42: Change “are” to “can be”.
6. Line 93: Add GPS coordinates for either the center of the ranch or the center of each paddock.
7. Line 136: According to your percentages, you should have collared 7 ewes, 6 hoggets, and 6 wethers. Ewes were your largest percentage.
8. Line 144: Change “i.e.” to “e.g.”.
9. Line 144: Change: “Due” to “Because”
10. Line 227: Insert “extracted” after “when ewes were”.
11. Line 276: Change “found” to “find”.
12. Line 297: Insert “categories” after “because”.
13. Line 404: Festa-Biachet (1988) not found in narrative.
14. Figures 1 and 2: Change the colors and the symbols to something more discernable, such as red, green, yellow and circle, square, diamond.

Experimental design

15. Line 180: You have decided to use RSF to model landscape utilization instead of an electivity index (J. Jacobs. Quantitative measurements of food selection. A modification of the forage ratio and Ivlev'selectivity index. Oecologia, 14 (1974), pp. 413–417), which is more often employed. The authors should justify their methodology choice.
16. Was kinship of the animals examined? Animals that are related but are in different categories may exhibit behaviors than animals that are completely unrelated.

Validity of the findings

No Comments

Additional comments



Basic reporting

This is an interesting article, very clear. The introduction and background show the context of the problem. However, I think more information on tracking animals with collars and/or spatial studies could be added in this section (see my detailed comments later on). The structure follows the instructions of the journal. The figures are relevant, although I think the titles/captions are too long in places - the authors describe the figures, where this description would better fit in the results section in the text of the manuscript. I would also suggest adding a couple of tables in the methods to explain better which animal was where (see my detailed comments).
The publication is self-contained and represents an appropriate unit of publication.
All supplementary appropriate data have been supplied.

Experimental design

The research question is clearly described, and states where the research gaps are. However, I would have liked to see a section in the introduction about GPS collars and their use in spatial studies of livestock. Also perhaps a little section on how (or if) animals of different states (e.g. gestational, lactating, growing) tend to graze differently (if this is known in the literature - if not, then it should be stated). The methods described are fine, although I would have liked a bit more details on the study area itself (total area of the farm, how many animals are grazing on the farm in total - is it only 200 sheep? is there cattle? other grazers?). In the sheep data section of the M&M, I would have liked to know how often where the collars changed, if at all - were they on the animals for the whole duration of the experiment? Also, perhaps a table to explain which animals was in which groups and when (lines 147-161), it may be easier to follow the methods that way.

Validity of the findings

The findings are robust. I think some of the description in the figure captions should be included in the results section. Also, some of the statistics should perhaps be included in the text of the results section as well (instead of having to refer to the supplementary material all the time). The discussion refers well to the results findings. I am surprised at having some references in the conclusions section. I think lines 307 - 318 should rather be included in the discussion. The end of the conclusion paragraph is fine (lines 319-324). Perhaps summarising again the main findings (i.e. ewes are dominant grazers and hoggets and wethers less so) and then use the last section (lines 319-324). This would, in my opinion, make the conclusion a bit stronger.

Additional comments

Below are some more specific comments:
Introduction - line 72 - perhaps a reference here would help.
M&M - line 85 - explain what 'sierra' is for an international audience. Also say again that the farm is in Argentina (Patagonia).
line 128 - shadow sites? do you mean 'shaded areas'?
lines 132-136 - I would not use so many decimal points to describe the % of animals (38% instead of 37.91% for example). Also, could you also explain that 19 collars out of 200 animals is fine in terms of representativeness of flock behaviour.
lines 144-146 - this sentence is unclear, could you perhaps rephrase?
Lines 147-165 - perhaps a table with timescale, number and types of animals, locational fields and number of days would be helpful instead of the long text? Could you also perhaps remind the reader that lambing in Argentina is in sept-dec and weaning is jan-sept? It is a bit confusing for a northern hemisphere readership otherwise.
Lines 189-192 - perhaps this should be in the introduction section of the paper?
Line 201 - what is MCMC?
line 227 - ewes were..what? missing word here
line 230 - marked switch - stats on that?
line 258 - do the ewes have a better growth rate/condition than the 2 other groups of animals if they graze the better areas?
lines 283-285 - rephrase that section - it is not very easy to follow what you mean.

Figure 1.
caption: what is RSF and HPD? this needs to be in full. I think lines 534-538 should be in the results, not in the caption of the figure.
Perhaps use symbols rather than colours for the dots on the figure.
Figure 2 - similar issue of lines 550-555 which, in my opinion, should go in the results section. Explain what RSF is. Rephrase lines 542-546 - this is a bit unclear at present.
Figure 3 - again, I think lines 559-564 should go in the results section, not in the caption. I would also add that orange dots are the ewes, black/blue dots are the other groups.

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