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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 29(2)

Factors affecting the management of cattle grazing distribution in northern Australia: preliminary observations on the effect of paddock size and water points1

L. P. Hunt A F, S. Petty B, R. Cowley C, A. Fisher D, A. J. Ash E, N. MacDonald C

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Tropical Ecosystems Research Centre, PMB 44, Winnellie, NT 0822, Australia.
B Heytesbury Beef, PO Box 1354, Howard Springs, NT 0835, Australia.
C Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines, PO Box 1346, Katherine, NT 0851, Australia.
D Biodiversity Conservation Division, Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, PO Box 496, Palmerston, NT 0831, Australia.
E CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, 306 Carmody Rd, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.
F Corresponding author. Email: Leigh.Hunt@csiro.au
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Achieving more uniform grazing at landscape and paddock scales is seen as an important management objective by pastoralists in northern Australia, but it is difficult to attain in practice. This paper presents a brief review of some key factors to be considered in attempts to modify grazing distribution in extensive rangelands by drawing on the preliminary results of a project that is investigating several options for achieving more uniform grazing. Subdividing the landscape into smaller paddocks and, to a lesser extent, installing additional water points in large paddocks are effective in distributing grazing more widely across the landscape. However, these approaches are less effective in achieving uniform grazing within paddocks, and areas of concentrated use still occur even in small paddocks. To achieve spatial grazing objectives, it is necessary to use management tools that operate at the appropriate scale. Attaining more even use within paddocks should therefore be viewed as a separate management objective, requiring different techniques, to obtaining more effective use of the landscape as a whole. Integrating the use of several spatial management tools that act at different scales is likely to be most effective in improving grazing distribution. Our findings also highlight the importance of understanding paddocks in terms of the spatial arrangement of forage resources and their acceptability and quality in relation to water points and other landscape features. Differences between individual cattle in the way they use the landscape are important in producing more uniform use in larger paddocks and may also offer other opportunities for improving the use of landscape resources overall. Finally, the implications of more uniform use for livestock production and other land use values should be considered, with the protection of biodiversity values potentially requiring special management arrangements where more even use is achieved.

Keywords: foraging behaviour, home range, patch grazing, sustainability, tropical savannas.

1Presented at the Spatial Grazing Behaviour Workshop, 14–15 June 2006, J.M. Rendel Laboratory, Rockhampton, Qld, Australia.
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