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Grazing pressure and tree competition affect cattle performance and native pastures in Eucalypt woodlands of Queensland, north-eastern Australia

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Hall, T. J., Silcock, R. G. and Mayer, D. G. (2020) Grazing pressure and tree competition affect cattle performance and native pastures in Eucalypt woodlands of Queensland, north-eastern Australia. Animal Production Science, 60 (7). pp. 953-966.

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Article Link(s): https://doi.org/10.1071/AN18512

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AN18512

Abstract

Context: Well managed grazing pressure will optimise animal and pasture production, and preserve the soil to maintain a viable beef business on native pastures in eucalypt woodlands.Aims: A cattle grazing experiment was established to measure animal and pasture performance under management practices used in the Aristida/Bothriochloa native pastures in central Queensland.Methods: Performance of Brahman-cross steers and pastures were measured in an experiment with three grazing pressures by two tree densities in a Eucalyptus populnea woodland in north-eastern Australia over 8 years in paddocks of 4–18 ha.Key results: At low grazing pressure with trees killed by herbicide (‘cleared’), stocking rate increased 35% as pasture composition and biomass improved over 8 years. At low grazing pressure where treed, stocking rate remained constant, however, at high grazing pressure where treed, it was reduced after 4 years. The annual liveweight gain increased from 0.37 to 0.45 to 0.51 kg/head.day as grazing pressure was reduced from high to medium to low grazing pressure respectively, and across grazing pressures it decreased from 0.49 where cleared to 0.39 kg/head.day where treed. Liveweight gain per hectare increased under low grazing pressure and declined at medium and high pressures. Body condition scores responded positively to lower grazing pressure and a lack of tree competition to pastures. This treatment combination also produced higher animal sale values. Pasture biomass, basal area and ground cover were all affected negatively by increasing grazing pressure.Conclusions: Grazing 25% of autumn pasture improved dry matter production, species composition and land condition, and increased steer growth rates, body condition and their market value. This grazing pressure produced an increasing trend in stocking rates relative to the decline at higher grazing pressures. Higher liveweight gain/ha was produced initially at high grazing pressure (75% utilisation), however, after 4 years animal condition and pastures deteriorated, requiring a reduction in stocking rate to maintain the condition of both the remaining animals and the pastures. Managing tree competition to pastures is necessary to maintain the higher animal production potential.Implications: This objective information demonstrates the benefits for cattle, pastures and long-term economic outcomes of managing for conservative grazing pressure and controlling tree competition to pasture in this woodland. Applying these findings can improve beef business outcomes and provide management groups with objective educational resources.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:Aristida/Bothriochloa, cattle liveweight, condition score, pasture production, poplar box.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural conservation
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Conservation of natural resources
Forestry > Research. Experimentation
Forestry > Conservation and protection
Animal culture > Cattle
Deposited On:31 Aug 2020 23:02
Last Modified:31 Aug 2020 23:02

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