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Grazing with Self Herding

Did you know self-herding can increase pasture use by 50% in areas that are normally not used?

Project start date: 01 January 2018
Project end date: 30 March 2019
Publication date: 22 November 2019
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle
Relevant regions: Northern Territory
Download Report (4.2 MB)

Summary

Self-herding is a method of livestock management that uses a combination of nutritional rewards and signals (sight, sound and smell) to move livestock around a paddock. Self-herding can influence grazing behaviour and improve paddock use.

This project was designed as a proof-of-concept to test the effectiveness of self-herding for grazing land management and as a fire management tool.

Results show the self-herding practices of 'attractant stations' and 'jackpot rewards' can be used to direct livestock grazing to targeted areas. Livestock managers were able to attract cattle into areas that they had previously never used, which spread grazing pressure, improved feed quality and reduced fire risk.

Objectives

This project was designed to test self-herding in a commercial setting in the Northern Territory, to determine if it can:

  • reduce grazing pressure on a historically over-used area
  • encourage cattle to graze previously un-used areas
  • shape grazing patterns as animals move into a new paddock.

Key findings

  • When animals were moved into a new paddock, self-herding attractant stations (feed drums) influenced how cattle spread across the landscape and where they spent time.
  • Encouraging animals to use new areas reduced grazing pressure in other areas. Self-herding increased grazing in un-used paddocks by 50%.
  • Self-herding is a practical tool to positively influence grazing patterns and create an opportunity to manage biomass without relying on fire.

The project demonstrated self-herding:

  • directly and markedly affected paddock utilisation by attracting cattle into areas that had previously never been used, which reduced grazing pressure
  • improved feed quality by removing dry, unpalatable grasses
  • reduced fire risk in under-used areas by encouraging grazing.

Benefits to industry

Managing grazing patterns no longer needs to rely on just fences and water points. Self-herding can be a practical, cost-effective management option to encourage cattle to use a wider range of locations to improve productivity and land management.

MLA action

MLA developed the 'Central Australian Self Herding' Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) based on the self-herding principles developed during this project. MLA will commence the self-herding PDS toward the end of 2020.

Future research

It is recommended that Grazing Land Management, EDGEnetwork, Profitable Grazing Systems and other MLA programs incorporate information on self-herding as an additional tool to achieve outcomes related to livestock profitability and land management.

Future studies should collect production data from self-herding, such as changes in live weight or reproductive performance.

Regional experts could be trained in self-herding as part of a structured program (possibly through the Profitable Grazing Systems program).

More information

Contact email: reports@mla.com.au
Primary researcher: Rangelands NRM WA