Their key insight, the team says, was to realise "it is biologically plausible to view [cattle] as oscillators … During the first stage (standing/feeding), they stand up to graze but they strongly prefer to lie down and 'ruminate' or chew the cud for the second stage (lying/ruminating). They thus oscillate between two stages."
The researchers "modelled the eating, lying and standing dynamics of a cow using a piecewise linear dynamical system … We chose a form of coupling based on cows having an increased desire to eat if they notice another cow eating and an increased desire to lie down if they notice another cow lying down." This, they say, led to at least one unexpected discovery: "[We] showed that it is possible for cows to synchronise less when the coupling is increased."
I'm not sure what implications this has for livestock producers, but this is not the first study of its kind, as you'll see in an article at The Guardian. Link -via Improbable Research, where you can find the worst version of Deck The Halls ever recorded.
(Image credit: Graham Turner/The Guardian)