Effects of grazing management on botanical composition of native grass-based pastures in temperate south-east Australia
Garden, DL and Lodge, GM and Friend, DA and Dowling, PM and Orchard, BA, Effects of grazing management on botanical composition of native grass-based pastures in temperate south-east Australia, Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 40, (2) pp. 225-245. ISSN 0816-1089 (2000) [Refereed Article]
Grazing management strategies to alter botanical composition of native pastures were investigated at 4 locations in the high rainfall zone of south-east Australia, including Tasmania. These studies were conducted as part of the Temperate Pasture Sustainability Key Program, which evaluated the effects of grazing management on a wide range of pasture types between 1993 and 1996. Pastures in this study were based on Aristida ramosa/Bothriochloa macra, Microlaena stipoides-Austrodanthonia spp. or Themeda triandra-Austrodanthonia spp. Seasonal rests, increased grazing pressure in spring, mob stocking and cutting for hay were compared to continuous grazing at all sites. In addition, specific local treatments were tested at individual sites. Changes in composition resulting from the treatments were minimal at most sites. This may have been due to a combination of the inherent stability of the pastures, the relatively short duration of the experiments, and the drought conditions experienced, which minimised differences between treatments. Some strategies to alter composition of natural pastures are suggested. In the Aristida-Bothriochloa pasture there was a general decrease in Aristida and an increase in Bothriochloa, which was largely unaffected by the type of grazing management applied. The combination of drought conditions and increasing grazing pressure was sufficient to alter composition without specific management strategies being necessary. In the Themeda-Austrodanthonia pasture, resting in spring, 12-month rests or cutting for hay (which involved a spring rest) allowed Themeda to increase in the pasture. The Microlaena-Austrodanthonia pastures were very stable, especially where annual grass content was low. However, certain treatments allowed Microlaena to increase, a result which is regarded as being favourable. The major effects in these latter pastures were on undesirable species. Vulpia spp. were reduced by resting in autumn and increased spring grazing pressure, while Holcus lanatus was increased dramatically by resting in spring and was also increased by resting in autumn or winter, but only when conditions were suitable for growth of this species. In many cases, treatment differences were only expressed following recovery from drought, showing that timing of grazing management to achieve change is critical.