The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Comparison of stocking methods for beef production in northern Australia: seasonal diet quality and composition

Trevor J. Hall A F , John G. McIvor B , Paul Jones C , David R. Smith D and David G. Mayer E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Agri-Science Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), PO Box 102, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

B CSIRO, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

C DAF, Locked Mail Bag 6, Emerald, Qld 4720, Australia.

D DAF, PO Box 976, Charters Towers, Qld 4820, Australia.

E DAF, EcoSciences Precinct, Boggo Road, Dutton Park, Qld 4102, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email: trevor.hall@daf.qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 38(6) 553-567 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ15122
Submitted: 11 December 2015  Accepted: 7 November 2016   Published: 16 December 2016

Abstract

Managing and measuring the grazing and nutrition of cattle are required to improve the productivity and profitability of beef businesses in northern Australia. The quality and composition of the diet selected by cattle grazing in three stocking methods (continuous, extensive rotation and intensive (cell) rotation) on nine commercial properties in Queensland were estimated using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy analyses of fresh faeces; 585 faecal samples were analysed between 2005 and 2009. Sites were in two regions (north and south Queensland) and on two vegetation communities, namely brigalow (Acacia harpophylla F. Muell. ex Benth.) on clay soils and eucalypts on light-textured soil types. Pastures were dominated by perennial sown exotic grass species, predominantly Cenchrus ciliaris L. (buffel grass) at five sites and Urochloa mosambicensis (Hack.) (Sabi grass) at one site, and by native perennial tussock grasses at three sites. Seasonal profiles of dietary crude protein, dry matter digestibility, faecal nitrogen concentration, proportion of non-grass, ratio of crude protein to digestibility and an estimate of liveweight gain are presented for each stocking method. Overall, dietary crude protein, digestibility, faecal nitrogen, the crude protein : digestibility ratio and liveweight gain were significantly higher for animals grazed continuously, with short rest periods, than for animals in extensive or intensive rotations. There was a significant interaction between stocking method and pasture growing conditions, measured as a simulated growth index, for dietary crude protein and faecal nitrogen. There was no difference between stocking methods during periods when the index was <0.2, indicating no pasture growth, but during periods of active growth (index >0.5), crude protein and faecal nitrogen were higher with continuous grazing than in the extensive and intensive rotations. For cattle producers considering alternative stocking methods, the results suggest they can obtain similar ecological responses under any of the three methods and diet quality will be higher during the pasture growing period in continuously grazed pastures.

Additional keywords: cell grazing, continuous grazing, dietary crude protein, digestibility, faecal near infrared reflectance spectroscopy, liveweight gain, rotational grazing.


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