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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(3)

Sustainable grazing management for temporal and spatial variability in north Australian rangelands – a synthesis of the latest evidence and recommendations

Peter O’Reagain A E, Joe Scanlan B, Leigh Hunt C, Robyn Cowley D and Dionne Walsh D

A Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, PO Box 976, Charters Towers, Qld 4820, Australia.
B Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, PO Box 102, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.
C CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, PMB 44, Winnellie, NT 0822, Australia.
D Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, GPO Box 3000, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: peter.o’reagain@daff.qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 36(3) 223-232 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ13110
Submitted: 5 November 2013  Accepted: 1 May 2014   Published: 10 June 2014

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Rainfall variability is a major challenge to sustainable grazing management in northern Australia, with management often complicated further by large, spatially-heterogeneous paddocks. This paper presents the latest grazing research and associated bio-economic modelling from northern Australia and assesses the extent to which current recommendations to manage for these issues are supported. Overall, stocking around the safe long-term carrying capacity will maintain land condition and maximise long-term profitability. However, stocking rates should be varied in a risk-averse manner as pasture availability varies between years. Periodic wet-season spelling is also essential to maintain pasture condition and allow recovery of overgrazed areas. Uneven grazing distributions can be partially managed through fencing, providing additional water-points and in some cases patch-burning, although the economics of infrastructure development are extremely context-dependent. Overall, complex multi-paddock grazing systems do not appear justified in northern Australia. Provided the key management principles outlined above are applied in an active, adaptive manner, acceptable economic and environmental outcomes will be achieved irrespective of the grazing system applied.

Additional keywords: grazing distribution, multi-paddock systems, pasture spelling, rainfall variability, simulation modelling, stocking rates.


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