A new project is underway to demonstrate to pastoralists Self Herding techniques to manage grazing distribution of cattle to establish grazing circuits within a paddock, creating a form of rotational grazing that does not rely on fencing.
Rangelands NRM is part of the collaborative project, funded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), and involving Dean Revell (Revell Science) and Bruce Maynard (Stress Free Stockmanship, who co-developed Self Herding, the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Resources (DPIR), Trudi Oxley (cattle and grazing consultant in the NT), and Territory NRM.
Project Coordinator Dean Revell said this practical approach to positively influence the grazing distribution of cattle will enable improved grazing management without a reliance on costly fence infrastructure.
A kick-off meeting for the project was held in the Northern Territory over 27-29 March to plan out the Northern Territory trial and commence project activities.
Dean said two trial sites will be established for this project, one in the NT and one in WA.
By utilising two trials to interrogate the application of RSH methods in two different contexts (NT and WA), this project is designed to provide two proof-of-concepts for sustainable pastoral production across the rangelands of Australia.
“The first is to demonstrate and quantify that Rangelands Self Herding can be used as a cost-effective tool to positively influence grazing patterns of cattle within a paddock,” Dean said. “The paddock for the trial was chosen because it has distinct patches created by historical grazing preferences. We will be aiming to create new grazing behaviours to encourage cattle to use areas previously underutilised, and reduce their impact of previously preferred areas.”
“The second trial is to strengthen preliminary data from a grower group trial in the Gascoyne of WA that employed Rangelands Self Herding methods to increase the pregnancy rates of heifers.”
In rangeland grazing systems, improved animal production relies on the supply of adequate nutrition for as long as possible (within seasonal constraints).
A key to achieving this goal is avoiding excessive patch grazing because of the negative impact this can have on both nutrient intake by cattle in over-used areas, as well as the regenerative capacity of the landscape.
Dean said strategies that achieve the dual benefits of avoiding over-grazing areas and bringing more areas into production will have financial and environmental benefits.
“The whole-of-enterprise production benefits will be particularly evident when the plane of nutrition of young breeding animals is increased to improve their reproductive rate,” he said.
Being able to increase pregnancy rates while improving the resource base at a low cost is a major breakthrough for producers.
“This is achievable by utilising the considerable base of behavioral science that underpins the Rangelands Self Herding methods,” Dean said.
“The RSH method of ‘Rangelot flushing’ that uses short-term nutritional supplementation combined with ‘Managed movements’ within a paddock has recently been shown to improve paddock utilisation and increase conception rates of heifers.”
The combination of a higher breeding performance and greater control over vegetation use by cattle to minimise patch grazing can improve reproductive performance in the short-term and build a more sustainable feed base in the longer term.