Grazing land management is about managing the number, type and location of grazing animals on the property so that land condition is maintained at a consistently high level. This provides the best opportunity to maximise pasture production and diet quality and consequently animal productivity. It considers the property as a whole and seeks to reduce the threats posed by land degradation, weeds and pest animals, as well as safeguarding and enhancing biodiversity across the property.
Grazing management starts with an understanding of the land’s capabilities and its current condition. With this information, decisions can be made about how to manage the various land types and improve land condition in vulnerable areas. Monitoring land condition over time will reveal how the management strategies are contributing to the land’s improvement or degradation.
The five key areas of this module cover the principles and practices of grazing management that are critical for the productivity and sustainability of the grazing enterprise.
Key Area 1 – Maps and property information
Maps and associated property information are essential for a grazing business, whether for calculating carrying capacities, planning infrastructure, vegetation management or managing weeds.
Maps should identify:
- Paddock boundaries and paddock areas
- Land types
- Water courses and wetlands
- Water infrastructure – bores, dams, pipelines
- Infrastructure – roads, yards and buildings
- Monitoring sites.
Other management information that can be mapped includes: soil types, topography and land use (e.g. cropping, forestry).
Land type mapping is used to measure the areas of different land types within paddocks. This is critical for calculating long term carrying capacities and managing stocking rates. Another key use for maps is measuring grazing radiuses to identify if significant areas of paddocks are underutilised by stock because of distance from water. This information is critical for planning infrastructure and property development.
Mapping can play an important role in developing management strategies for land in poor condition, erosion, salinity, weed infestations and biodiversity. Regular updating of maps ensures their ongoing usefulness for property management.
State agriculture and natural resource management departments, natural resource management groups and producer organisations can provide assistance with mapping. Regularly updating maps ensures their ongoing usefulness for management and planning.
‘Land types’ are areas of grazing land characterised by consistent patterns of soil, vegetation and topography. They are typically identified by their native vegetation, for example: poplar box flats, spotted gum ridges, or mountain coolibah open woodland; however their productivity is underpinned by their underlying soil. Land types form management units for property mapping and management planning. NRM groups and state agencies can provide land type mapping and supporting information.
Key Area 2 – Land capability and condition
Understanding the inherent capacity and limitations of country is critical to good grazing management and, ultimately, to the productivity and sustainability of the grazing business.
Key Area 3 – Managing grazing pressure
Managing grazing pressure is the most important aspect of grazing management. It directly impacts on the pasture resource, animal performance and profitability. Excessive grazing pressure reduces the vigour and density of preferred pasture plants resulting in more bare ground and less desired plants. Animal performance is affected because they have less opportunity to select the higher quality plants and parts of plants. Poorer pasture productivity results in lower reproductive performance and growth rates.
Key Area 4 – Managing the land resource
In addition to managing grazing pressure a number of land resource risks and issues have to be considered in grazing management and property development.
Key Area 5 – Weeds and pest animals
The key principles for managing weeds are:
- Being aware of weeds that can be/are a problem.
- Detecting weeds on the property.
- Biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of weed infestation.
- Identifying control strategies and implementing an integrated approach.
- Intervening early to control new weeds.
- Monitoring and following-up.
Australia’s most serious weed species have been named as Weeds of National Significance (WONS), and these include prickly acacia, parthenium, bellyache bush and lantana. The full list is provided at www.weeds.org.au/wons/.
Each state has a list of ‘declared’ weeds. State legislation specifies landholder’s obligations to manage declared weeds. See http://www.weeds.org.au/docs/weednet6.pdf for a full list.
Some weeds with no legislative requirements also cause environmental or economic losses, and it can still be in the interests of the property owner to manage them.
Regional and local NRM groups, local and state government officers and rural suppliers can provide advice on identifying and managing weeds.