Optimal grazing management strategies: evaluating key concepts
Rangeland management strategies must be based on robust ecological and economic concepts if they are to be effective and profitable. Thus, the aim of this paper was to examine concepts related to grazing and resting of grassland and associated effects on grassland productivity and energy flow to livestock. Our review and models demonstrate that grassland and livestock productivity is determined by lagged effects of the previous year’s grazing and by grassland maturation, which influence grass growth rates, as well as forage quality. Livestock productivity is also influenced by the scale at which livestock are able to make foraging decisions in time and space, which is restricted by increasing intensity of management (increasing rotation and declining paddock size). Finally, overstocking will override key management initiatives, such as effective recovery periods, leading to rangeland degradation. Thus, in variable climates, stocking rate should be set conservatively to allow easier adaptation of animal numbers to rainfall variability from year to year. We suggest several key concepts that can be used to design and assess grazing management strategies and make suggestions on how to implement these concepts.
Keywords: forage quality, grassland productivity, Holistic Planned Grazing™, livestock performance, rotational grazing