RESEARCH looking at the demand for forage by all grazing animals is underway in a project that could deliver valuable information to rangelands livestock producers about the time when risks of losing feedbase occur.
This unique national study will apply a cross sector and jurisdiction approach to also deliver a solid base of information to natural resource managers.
NSW Department of Primary Industries senior research scientist, Dr Cathy Waters, based at Trangie Research Centre, is leading the Meat and Livestock Australia-supported project.
Dr Waters said there was currently a considerable, industry-based requirement for understanding the impacts of total grazing pressure (TGP) management.
TGP was the demand for forage by all herbivores, or grazing animals, both domestic and wild, relative to supply.
The key to good rangeland management was to understand both livestock production and landscape responses, to balance grazing pressure, adjusting stock numbers in response to available feed and strategically resting pastures, she said.
“If we can provide information that identifies critical times this is more likely to lead to sustainable livestock production.
“Rangelands management is not just about production but about maintaining the resource.”
This project represents the most significant attempt to date to understand regional and national trends in total grazing pressure in the southern rangelands.
“It is very difficult to quantify when competing demands for feed occur because of the differences between herbivores’ dietary preferences and how they change under different seasonal condition ,” Dr Waters said.
“And of course, it is different depending on just what paddock you’re in.”
The aim is start with a review of current knowledge, identify information gaps and then deliver a solid plan on what specific areas future research should focus on.
Increasing investment in exclusion type fencing in southern Australian rangelands makes the need for this type of information particularly urgent, Dr Waters said.
The project will look at close to two million square km of rangelands outside of the tropical and arid interior regions.
“If we can provide producers with information on conditioning pasture so it is in the best possible state to respond to whatever seasonal conditions may be ahead this will underpin sustainable livestock production,” Dr Waters said.
“Knowing how many additional herbivores you have and just what the grazing pressure is at different times provide the flexibility to rest pastures.”