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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 50(2)

Influence of stocking rate and mixed grazing of Angora goats and Merino sheep on animal and pasture production in southern Australia. 1. Botanical composition, sward characteristics and availability of components of annual temperate pastures

B. A. McGregor

Livestock Production Sciences, Future Farming Systems Research Division, Department of Primary Industries, Werribee, Vic. 3030, Australia. Present address: Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation, Deakin University, Geelong, Vic. 3217, Australia. Email: bruce.mcgregor@deakin.edu.au
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The effects of animal species (AS; Angora goats, Merino sheep or goats and sheep mixed grazed together at ratio 1 : 1) and stocking rate (SR; 7.5, 10 and 12.5 animals/ha) on the availability, botanical composition and sward characteristics of annual temperate pastures under continuous grazing were determined in a replicated experiment from 1981 to 1984. AS and SR had significant effects on pasture availability and composition and many AS × SR interactions were detected. The pastures grazed by sheep had significantly reduced content and proportion of subterranean clover and more undesirable grasses compared with those grazed by goats. There were no differences in dry matter availabilities between goat- and sheep-grazed pastures at 7.5/ha, but at 10 and 12.5/ha goat pastures had significantly increased availabilities of green grass, dead and green clover and less weeds compared with sheep pastures. There was a significant AS × SR interaction for the density of seedlings in May following pasture germination. Between July and January, the height of pastures was greater under goats than sheep but from January to March pasture height declined more on goat-grazed than on sheep-grazed pastures. There was an AS × SR interaction for incidence of bare ground. Increasing the SR increased bare ground in pastures grazed by sheep but no change occurred on pastures grazed by goats. Changes in pasture characteristics due to increased SR were minimised on pastures grazed by goats but the grazing of sheep caused larger and faster changes and the pastures were damaged at the highest SR. Goats did not always select the same herbage material as sheep, changed their selection between seasons and were not less selective than sheep. Angora goats were flexible grazers and continually adapted their grazing behaviour to changing herbage conditions. Goat grazing led to an increase in subterranean clover, an accumulation of dead herbage at the base of the sward, reduced bare ground, taller pastures in spring and a more stable botanical composition. Mixed-grazed pasture characteristics were altered with SR. With careful management Angora goats on sheep farms may be used to manipulate pasture composition, to speed up establishment of subterranean clover, to decrease soil erosion and to reduce weed invasion.

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