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, she explained, was the demand for forage by all herbivores, or grazing animals, both domestic and wild, relative to supply.
The key to good rangeland management is to understand both livestock production and landscape responses, to balance grazing pressure, adjusting livestock 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,” she said.
“Rangelands management is not just about production but about maintaining the resource - the two go together.”
This project represents the most significant attempt to date to understand regional and national trends in total grazing pressure in the southern Australian rangelands.
“It is very difficult to quantify when competing demands for feed occur because of the differences between herbivore’s 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 kilometres of rangelands country 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.
“As predictions of climate change come to bear, producers and natural resource managers will be faced with the need to have this sort of information at hand more and more.”
MLA’s sustainable feedbase resources program manager Cameron Allan said the project would strengthen MLA’s ability to target research, development and adoption areas with the greatest benefit-to-cost rations at a farm, regional and industry level.
“With the innovation in TCP management currently occurring in rangelands across southern Australia, the project will provide a co-ordinated and consistent review of current knowledge and identification of the most urgent research requirements,” he said.