Higher grazing profits and sustainable pastoral landscapes can go hand-in-hand, according to new research starting in the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
Rotational grazing systems offer significant scope to cut costs, increase livestock productivity, make better use of country and at the same time achieve better vegetation cover and environmental stewardship.
And it’s all down to natural cattle and sheep behaviour, says Desert Knowledge CRC’s Dr Ben Norton.
“This runs counter to most things science has been saying for the past quarter of a century: that there are no obvious advantages in rotational grazing over set stocking.”
But the evidence of a handful of pastoralists who are turning loss-making operations into highly profitable ones and restoring the condition of degraded country at the same time is hard to ignore, he says.
“It appears to be a question of scale, especially in the pastoral zone, and of animal behaviour. A large mob of animals that is on the move behaves quite differently to a smaller mob that is in one large paddock all the time.
“Sheep and cattle are naturally migratory animals. They move, graze and water in large mobs. Their loyalty is to the herd or flock.
“But when you pen them in a paddock more-or-less permanently they become territorial – loyal to particular locations. This leads to higher grazing pressure in some areas and less effective use of the total grazing resource.”
Dr Norton says that observations on properties in semi-arid Australia – both cattle and sheep – indicate there can be major advantages in moving to a rotational system in a planned fashion.
Animal behaviour and animal distribution occurring in paddocks on a commercial property have been irrelevant in grazing trials on research stations. This Desert Knowledge CRC research will test rotational grazing at a property scale, …