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Self Shepherding to managed grazing pressure in the rangelands

A new project will test new low-cost techniques for the management of grazing pressure in the rangelands.

Coordinated by Rangelands NRM, the project will apply nutritional shepherding to manage movement and grazing behaviour within large paddocks.

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.

For more information, contact: Dr Dean Revell, Tel: 08 9333 6492 Mobile: 0408 904 948 or via email.