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Grazing management

Ten practical ways to sustainably manage land for production in the Western Local Region

The Western Local Region is mostly semi-arid rangeland. The climate is highly variable, property scale is large in comparison to higher rainfall areas and the landscape can respond in seemingly unpredictable ways. To sustainably manage a grazing enterprise in this environment, an understanding of ecology, as well as agronomy, is required. 

Ten broad principles that lead to sustainable management of land have been identified for grazing in this environment. The principles will also contribute to maintaining the unique biodiversity of the Western Local Region.

1. Actively control feral animals 

Gaining control of feral goats and rabbits is crucial to implementing grazing management actions. Pigs, foxes, wild dogs, rabbits and feral cats also have important impacts on production and biodiversity. 

2. Control access to watering points 

Grazing animals need water. The control of access to water is a key tool to manage grazing pressure on extensive areas where domestic, feral and native herbivores may be highly mobile or difficult to muster. 

3. Maintain and improve groundcover 

Groundcover includes pastures, dead plant material such as pasture residue or tree leaf fall and gibber, and biological soil crusts. Groundcover plays an essential role in minimising erosion, promoting moisture infiltration and providing conditions for pasture establishment. Land managers should aim for a minimum target of 50% groundcover. 

4. Manage for drought 

Western NSW is a land of droughts and floods where seasonal variability is normal. Planning for this variability is an essential aspect of any property management strategy. Climate risk management information is now available to help cope with seasonal fluctuations

5. Manage invasive native scrub (INS) 

Some types of woody vegetation in the Western Local Region rangelands regenerate readily with favourable seasons. Since natural controls on regeneration, especially fire and competition from vigorous perennial pastures have declined through grazing practices, these species now behave in an invasive manner. Ongoing management of woody vegetation should therefore be an ongoing consideration. 

6. Manage pasture species 

Grazing animals selectively eat the most palatable plants, leaving those that are less nutritious or digestible. Palatable perennial pastures provide long-term drought resilience and persistent groundcover but are susceptible to selective grazing. Managing pastures to ensure palatable perennials survive, while making the most of annual growth, provides good productivity while maintaining long-term stability.  

7. Manage total grazing pressure 

The poor condition of rangeland vegetation is often a result of heavy grazing pressure from feral and native herbivores as well as domestic stock. The control of total grazing pressure, especially feral goat impact, is a critical first step to improving groundcover and implementing sustainable management practices. 

8. Match stock numbers to feed availability 

The skill of estimating pasture growth in terms of how many stock it will carry and for how long, is fundamental to managing Western rangelands. Graze only 30% by weight of key perennial grasses and aim to maintain greater than 50% groundcover. 

9. Rest pastures regularly 

Palatable perennial grasses and forbs provide long-term groundcover, competition to invasive scrub seedlings and productivity into dry seasons. Continuous grazing can produce adverse changes in pasture composition while long-term rest periods often improve pasture composition. Rest at key times is a management tool to allow these plants to set seed, establish, and replenish root reserves. 

10. Think long-term and act short-term 

Long-term planning and investment in new skills or knowledge are traits that improve property viability and natural resource sustainability. 

More on the 10 principles

These principles are presented in greater detail as fact sheets, which you can download using the links below:

Documentary series

We have also produced a documentary series, Looking over the Fence: Grazing Management in the Rangelands. These documentaries feature five land managers explaining the practical ways they use sustainable grazing management principles on their properties. Filmed across the NSW rangelands, the landholders show how these principles make their properties healthier and more productive.

Case study

Good management, less stress
Flexibility and new ideas are helping the Mosely family increase the triple bottom line on their Cobar properties, Etiwanda and Manuka.   

Achieving the dual outcomes of profitable grazing and biodiversity

Chenopod shrublands in the Western Local Region 

An iconic Australian landscape, the chenopod shrublands are typically portrayed as a harsh environment. Maintaining this delicately balanced ecology is of critical importance in sustaining a functioning and productive landscape. 

Open woodlands in the Western Local Region 

Open woodlands are extensive across the Western local Region, supporting a diverse array of native plant and animal species. Understanding and managing the habitat values of these areas is the key to the longevity of pastoral enterprises throughout the Western Local Region. 

Rivers and floodplains in the Western Local Region 

Providing the link between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, riparian areas support a multitude of agricultural practices including intensive agriculture and extensive grazing. These ecosystems are a very valuable but increasingly threatened resource.