Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Impacts of grazing management options on pasture and animal productivity in a Heteropogon contortus (black speargrass) pasture in central Queensland. 3. Diet composition in autumn

R. E. Hendricksen A B , D. J. Myles A B , D. J. Reid A and D. M. Orr A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, PO Box 6014, Rockhampton Mail Centre, Qld 4702, Australia.

B Retired.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Animal Production Science 50(4) 276-283
Submitted: 2 June 2009  Accepted: 19 March 2010   Published: 12 May 2010


The diet selected in autumn by steers fistulated at the oesophageous was studied in a subset of treatments in an extensive grazing study conducted in a Heteropogon contortus pasture in central Queensland between 1988 and 2001. These treatments were a factorial array of three stocking rates (4, 3 and 2 ha/steer) and three pasture types (native pasture, legume-oversown native pasture and animal diet supplement/spring-burning native pasture). Seasonal rainfall throughout this study was below the long-term mean and mean annual pasture utilisation ranged from 30 to 61%. Steers consistently selected H. contortus with levels decreasing from 47 to 18% of the diet as stocking rate increased from 4 ha/steer to 2 ha/steer. Stylosanthes scabra cv. Seca was always selected in legume-oversown pastures with diet composition varying from 35 to 66% despite its plant density increasing from 7 to 65 plants/m2 and pasture composition from 20 to 50%. Steers also selected a diet containing Chrysopogon fallax, forbs and sedges in higher proportions than they were present in the pasture. Greater availability of the intermediate grasses Chloris divaricata and Eragrostis spp. was associated with increased stocking rates. Bothriochloa bladhii was seldom selected in the diet, especially when other palatable species were present in the pasture, despite B. bladhii often being the major contributor to total pasture yield. It was concluded that a stocking rate of 4 ha/steer will maintain the availability of H. contortus in the pasture.

Additional keywords: burning, Heteropogon contortus pastures, legume oversowing, oesophageal fistula, selection indices, stocking rate.


Special acknowledgement is made to the Neill-Ballantine family (Galloway Plains Pastoral Co.) for their ready cooperation and for the long-term use of land on which the study was based. Many people contributed to the overall conduct of this grazing study during its 13-year duration and it is impossible to comprehensively list all these people here. We would especially acknowledge the large number of Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and Department of Natural Resources and Water staff who provided major contributions to this study’s success. A Producer Advisory Group readily gave constructive advice throughout the study. Funding was provided by Meat and Livestock Australia.


Anderson ER (1993) ‘Plants of central Queensland – their identification and uses. Information Series 192037.’ (Queensland Department of Primary Industries: Brisbane)

Andrew MH (1986) Selection of plant species by cattle grazing native Monsoon tallgrass pasture at Katherine, NT. Tropical Grasslands 20, 120–127.

Ash AJ, Corfield JF (1998) Influence of pasture condition on plant selection patterns by cattle: its implications for vegetation change in a monsoon tallgrass rangeland. Tropical Grasslands 32, 178–187.

Ash AJ, McIvor JG, Corfield JF, Winter WH (1995) How land condition alters plant-animal relationships in Australia’s tropical rangelands. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 56, 77–92.
CrossRef |

Burrows WH, Orr DM, Hendricksen RE, Rutherford MT, Myles DJ, Back PV (2010) Impacts of grazing management options on pasture and animal productivity in a Heteropogon contortus (black speargrass) pasture central Queensland. 4. Animal production. Animal Production Science 50, 284–292.
CrossRef |

Coates DB (1996) Diet selection by cattle grazing Stylosanthes-grass pastures in the seasonally dry tropics: effect of year, season, stylo species and botanical composition. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 36, 781–789.
CrossRef |

Coates DB, Schachenmann P, Jones RJ (1987) Reliability of extrusa samples collected from steers fistulated at the oesophagus to estimate the diet of resident animals in grazing experiments. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 27, 739–745.
CrossRef |

Forbes TDA, Beattie MM (1987) Comparative studies of ingestive behaviour and diet composition in oesophageal-fistulated and non-fistulated cows and sheep. Grass and Forage Science 42, 79–84.
CrossRef |

Gammon DG, Roberts BR (1978) Patterns of defoliation during continuous and rotational grazing of the Matopas sandveld of Rhodesia. 1. Selectivity of grazing. Rhodesian Journal of Agricultural Research 16, 117–131.

Genstat (2002) ‘Genstat for Windows. Release 6.1.’ (VSN International: Oxford)

Hall DG, Hamilton BA (1975) Estimation of the botanical composition of oesophageal extrusa samples. 2. A comparison of manual separation and a microscope point technique. Journal British Grassland Society 30, 273–278.
CrossRef |

Hamilton BA, Hall DG (1975) Estimation of the botanical composition of oesophageal extrusa samples. 1. A modified microscope point technique. Journal British Grassland Society 30, 229–235.
CrossRef |

Hendricksen RE , Miller CP , Punter LD (1999) Diet selection of cattle grazing tropical tallgrass pasture. In ‘Proceedings of the VIth International Rangelands Congress’. (Eds D Eldridge, D Freuden-berger) pp. 222–223. (International Rangeland Congress: Aitkenvale, Qld)

Holechek JL, Vavra M, Pieper RD (1982) Botanical composition determination of range herbivore diets: a review. Journal of Range Management 35, 309–315.
CrossRef |

Jones RJ, Lascano CE (1992) Oesophageal fistulated cattle can give unreliable estimates of the proportion of legume in the diets of resident animals grazing tropical pastures. Grass and Forage Science 47, 128–132.
CrossRef |

McIvor JG (2007) Pasture management in semi-arid tropical woodlands: dynamics of perennial grasses. The Rangeland Journal 29, 87–100.
CrossRef |

McIvor JG , Noble AD , Orr DM (1996) Review of stability and productivity of native pastures oversown with tropical legumes. Northern Australia Program Occasional Publication No. 1. Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd, North Sydney.

McMeniman NP, Beale IF, Murphy GM (1986) Nutritional evaluation of southeast Queensland pastures. 1. The botanical and nutrient content of diets selected by sheep grazing on Mitchell grass and mulga/grassland associations. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 37, 289–302.
CrossRef |

Orr DM , Paton CJ , Rutherford MT (1999) Forest bluegrass (Bothriochloa bladhii) can replace black speargrass (Heteropogon contortus) in central Queensland native pasture. In ‘Proceedings of the VIIth International Rangelands Congress’. (Eds D Eldridge, D Freuden-berger) pp. 223–225. (International Rangeland Congress: Aitkenvale, Qld)

Orr DM, Burrows WH, Hendricksen RE, Clem RL, Back PV, Rutherford MT, Myles DJ, Conway MJ (2010a) Impacts of grazing management options on pasture and animal productivity in a Heteropogon contortus (black speargrass) pasture central Queensland. 1. Pasture yield and composition. Crop & Pasture Science 61, 170–181.
CrossRef |

Orr DM, Yee MC, Rutherford MT, Paton CJ (2010b) Impacts of grazing management options on pasture and animal productivity in a Heteropogon contortus (black speargrass) pasture central Queensland. 2. Population dynamics of Heteropogon contortus and Stylosanthes scabra cv. Seca. Crop & Pasture Science 61, 255–267.
CrossRef |

Tothill JC , Hargreaves JNC , Jones RM , Mc Donald CK (1992) Botanal – a comprehensive sampling and computing procedure for estimating pasture yield and composition. 1. Field sampling. Technical Memorandum No. 78, Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures, CSIRO, Australia.

Volesky JD, Schact WH, Reece PE, Vaughn TJ (2007) Diet composition of cattle grazing sandhills range during spring. Rangeland Ecology and Management 60, 65–70.
CrossRef |

Wandera FP , Kerridge PC , Taylor JA , Shelton MH (1993) Changes in productivity associated with replacement of Heteropogon contortus by Aristida species and Chrysopogon fallax of the savannas of southeast Queensland. In ‘Proceedings of the XVIIth International Grassland Congress’. (Eds MJ Baker, JR Crush, LR Humphries) pp. 352–353. (New Zealand Grassland Association: Palmerston North)

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (5)