Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

International expert visits as part of new rangeland ‘self-shepherding’ discussions

Media Release
4 April 2014

An international animal behaviour expert will be in Broome next month as part of discussions about a new rangelands ‘self-shepherding’ project.

Rangelands NRM, in partnership with the West Kimberley LCDC, have invited Dr Fred Provenza, currently a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University to Broome for a two-day workshop 8-9 May.

Dr Provenza is a leading authority on animal feeding behaviour and management with emphasis on herbivore learning, food selection and the impacts on landscape health. He has over 30 years of research in plant-animal interactions, animal behaviour and nutrition. His research has identified many different components, including early-life experiences of animals that influence their diet and habitat selection.

His visit will be incorporated with a LCDC meeting and discussion of opportunities for Rangelands NRM’s new Rangelands Self Shepherding Project, supported by a Federal Government Innovation Grant in Sustainable Agriculture.

Spearheading the project are research scientist Dr Dean Revell and livestock producer Bruce Maynard who have been working together on the development of a concept termed ‘Rangelands Self Shepherding’ or RSS.

Dr Revell said typically, in the past when people have started to subdivide their country to get better results for grazing and landscape goals, it’s meant a lot of fencing and water supply points.

‘Current uneven grazing pressure leads to patch grazing – areas of overgrazing and low groundcover mixed with undergrazing and high groundcover within the same paddock,” he said.

RSS can be seen as a ‘managed migration’ of livestock about the landscape, achieved by applying a number of different tactics, including herding, supplement placement and others to modify the experiences of livestock and therefore their grazing behaviour, and also that of other animals in the landscape.

‘These modified behaviours such as improved distribution across the landscape, are designed to provide benefits with only occasional interactions with humans.”

Dr Revell said the land manager can take into account total grazing pressure of the landscape, and required rest periods, and then use a combination of tactics to encourage that ‘migration’.

‘They can turn on water or turn supply off which initiates a set of animal behaviours that encourages them to shift location.”

‘Additionally, a variety of different attractants can be used including salt and mineral supplements or other dietary supplements like energy feeds,” Dr Revell said.

RSS can be cheap to implement and pastoralists can start with a small number of herds and scale it up after they have built confidence and experienced the benefits.

A number of workshops will be held across the rangelands and work will be undertaken with three selected pastoral groups to run trials.

Dr Revell said modifying livestock behaviour will result in increased groundcover and livestock productivity in the rangelands.

‘Ultimately, pastoralists will have a set of options to manage their livestock and natural resources in a flexible way, increase their long term returns.”



Self Shepherding
A new project managed by Rangelands NRM ‘Managing feed supply and groundcover in rangelands through nutritional shepherding’ will test new low-cost techniques for the management of grazing pressure in the rangelands. This project will apply nutritional shepherding to manage movement and grazing behaviour within large paddocks. Nutritional shepherding provides nutritional rewards in a coordinated arrangement around the landscape. These rewards will be linked with sensory cues (eg remote audio signals and visual guides) to induce long-term behavioural change.

Rangelands NRM
Rangelands NRM WA is a not for profit, non-aligned community-based group which aims to facilitate collaboration and best practice in environmental management for land managers who want to achieve good natural resources outcomes. For more information about Rangelands NRM and their projects, visit http://www.rangelandswa.com.au

Dr Dean Revell
Tel: 08 9333 6492 Mobile: 0408 904 948 or via email dean.revell@iinet.net.au
PLEASE NOTE: Dr Revell will be unavailable for interview on Tuesday 8 April, or between Thursday 10 April and Saturday 26 April

Teresa Belcher, Communications Manager
Rangelands NRM, WA
Tel: 08 9468 5250, Mobile: 0488 594 324
Email: teresab@rangelandswa.com.au