Native pastures form the basis of many grazing systems throughout Australia. With careful grazing management, they can persist and provide a valuable feed supply.
Good grazing management is a combination of:
- Balancing pasture growth and use so land condition is improved.
- Accurate assessment of pasture quality and quantity.
- Accurate assessment of animal demand for pasture.
- Optimisation of evenness of pasture use through water point distribution and paddock design.
- Managing stocking rates to reach production and land condition targets.
Pasture utilisation is one of the key profit drivers for a grazing enterprise and is important in managing land condition. This involves balancing how much pasture is grown with how much pasture is eaten.
The optimal utilisation rate is different for each land type and is managed by varying stocking rate and the number of stock per unit area according to the carrying capacity.
Achieving a balance between stocking according to the long-term carrying capacity and the short-term carrying capacity based on feed budgeting is the key to optimal pasture utilisation.
The tendency for animals to graze different parts of a paddock or property has important implications for long-term and short-term carrying capacity and grazing management.
The four most common reasons livestock do not evenly use a paddock are:
- Distance to water
- Land type preference
- Patch grazing due to presence initially of preferred species and then regrowth
- Plant species preferences
There are a number of grazing strategies which producers can apply. Regardless of the strategy used, a successful system will:
- Manage pasture utilisation effectively (carrying capacity and timing of spelling).
- Reduce uneven grazing that is either wasteful or harmful.
- Match stocking rate to the diet quality required by the animal production targets.
Strategic grazing can also play an important role in hazard reduction, weed management and maintaining a favourable tree grass balance.