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Grazing for pasture management in the high rainfall, perennial pasture zone of Australia

A.S. Beattie

Department of Primary Industry, Kings Meadows, TAS 7250


Loss of sown perennials from temperate pastures is widespread, particularly under continuous grazing. The problem can reflect a lack of attention to managing the grazing process with the goal of sustaining a mixture of nutritious species that are well adapted to climate and to defoliation. Animals affect plants by selective grazing, fouling with excreta redistributing nutrients, spreading viable seeds, and by treading which can damage plant growing points and compact the sod resulting in reduced water infiltration and habitat for useful biota.

In the narrow sense, grazing management involves control of animal movement to vary the timing, period, frequency and intensity of grazing with objectives such as rationing pasture, controlling botanical composition, increasing pasture growth by optimising light interception, improving the distribution of nutrients from excretal return, and reducing parasite transmission. Set-stocking and continuous grazing is, in effect, the zero option for grazing management. In the wider sense, it must be recognised that management decisions on overall stocking rate, type of animal, timing of reproduction, and the use of fertiliser, mechanical cutting and supplementary feeding can have powerful and interactive effects on the achievement of goals that are set for grazing management.

The challenge is to develop clear guidelines for grazing management through research, synthesis and practical experience. There are major gaps in knowledge of the interactions between climate, the grazing process and the regenerative capacities of the grazed plants. In this review, I am attempting to provide the background needed to plan and to achieve realisable goals through managing the grazing process in temperate, high rainfall pastures. To do this I will: -

Review the results of field experiments that show significant changes in the botanical composition of pastures.

Discuss the claims of management systems in terms of maintaining a desirable level of botanical stability and the wider objective of managing for sustainable and profitable animal production in a pasture-based, farming enterprise.

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