Grazing management tactics

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Grazing management tactics to increase, maintain or decrease individual species in a pasture
Pasture type Increase or maintain Decrease or remove
Temperate native grasses
  • Use strategic, tactical or rotational grazing
  • Maintain groundcover at 70% in high rainfall zones or 40% in semi-arid areas
  • Allow flowering and seed set of desirable grasses
  • Avoid use of legumes and high rates of phosphorus and sulfur
  • Continuously graze even at low and moderate stocking rates
  • Overgraze, especially in dry conditions
  • Regularly burn pastures
  • Allow shrub and weed invasion

Note: Many states and catchments restrict native pasture management interventions (see Procedure 5.3 signposts in the Protect Your Farm’s Natural Assets module of Making More from Sheep).

Subtropical grasses
  • Allow flowering and set seed once a year
  • Rotationally graze and supplement stock when green herbage mass is low
  • Control growth of temperate species (eg clover, barley grass, ryegrass) in early spring
  • Control growth of competitive, summer growing annual grasses
  • Provide adequate nitrogen
  • Do not overgraze when dry or nitrogen is low
  • Maintain groundcover
  • Reduce fertiliser and nitrogen inputs
  • Graze heavily during flowering
  • Graze rhodes grass to ground level

Note: Purple pigeon, rhodes grass and green panic are susceptible to overgrazing when dry and nitrogen is low.

Phalaris
  • Increase phosphorus applications
  • In northern environments with more summer rainfall, rest in spring–summer, remove excess trash late in summer, then rest until 3–4 weeks after autumn break
  • In southern environments, rest over autumn–winter to allow more tillering of the existing plants
  • Graze after the plants reach 4 leaves/tiller
  • Allow soil fertility to decline
  • Graze heavily during spring–summer or repeatedly cut to not allow to run to head.
  • Graze heavily any new green shoots in summer and autumn, but monitor stock for any signs of phalaris poisoning such as phalaris staggers and sudden death syndrome
Cocksfoot
  • Graze to maintain above 1,000–1,500kg DM/ha
  • Apply high rates of phosphorus fertiliser
  • Avoid continuous grazing of green shoots during summer and autumn
  • To avoid cocksfoot dominance, graze all summer growth including individual tussocks down to 10cm tall at the autumn break
  • Graze heavily during autumn to physically pull plants from the ground
  • Graze hard down to 2.5cm or less during late spring or summer
  • Allow soil fertility to decline
Perennial ryegrass
  • Rotationally graze during summer, ideally after plants reach 3 leaves/tiller
  • Allow soil fertility to decline
  • Do not allow to run to head
  • Graze continuously and heavily during summer
Tall fescue
  • Graze frequently (every 14–21 days) for short periods (2–3 days) during periods of active growth, once the plants reaches 4 leaves/tiller
  • Do not graze until 3 weeks of good active growth or 12–15cm of grass growth
  • Set stock or rotationally graze from autumn to spring to maintain 1,000–2,500kg DM/ha (or 5–15cm) of pasture
  • Continuously graze in hot dry conditions
  • Graze heavily during dry summers or early autumn
Subterranean clover
  • Avoid grazing until seedlings have 3–5 true leaves, usually 3–6 weeks after the autumn break
  • Keep groundcover and weeds below 1,000kg DM/ha during summer–early autumn
  • Maintain a sward height of 5cm or less until flowering
  • Increase phosphorus applications
  • Maintain groundcover above 1,000kg DM/ha
  • Do not control earth mites
  • Cut hay or graze heavily during seedset
  • Apply herbicides during flowering
  • Allow soil fertility to decline, including molybdenum and boron
White clover
  • Keep groundcover and weeds low at break and graze continuously to keep the grasses short
  • Over winter and early spring, graze pasture to 750kg DM/ha (or 3cm)
  • Heavily rotationally graze in spring to control grasses, maintaining pasture between 1,000–3,000kg DM/ha (or 10–25cm)
  • Increase phosphorus applications
  • Graze heavily during flowering
  • Graze to less than 1,200kg DM/ha while under moisture stress during summer
  • Allow soil fertility to decline, including molybdenum and boron
Lucerne
  • Allow to achieve well in excess of 10% flowering prior to grazing. This must be achieved at least once per year, preferably in the autumn
  • Rotationally graze for most areas
  • In summer, 2 weeks rotational grazing and 5 weeks rest
  • In winter, 2 weeks rotational grazing and 7–8 weeks rest
  • Increase phosphorus applications
  • Set stock paddocks at heavy stocking rates
  • Allow soil fertility to decline, including molybdenum and boron
Grazing cereals
  • Delay first grazing until plants are well anchored and starting to tiller (6–8 weeks post-emergence)
  • For winter types, longer deferment can increase growth and winter feed supply
  • High stock density rotational grazing gives the most even utilisation and allows recovery
  • Heavy grazing during the first 6–8 weeks
  • Heavy grazing in spring once the seed heads begin to form
  • Late grazing of semi-dwarf types can make any grain harvesting difficult
Chicory
  • If sown as a specialist finishing pasture, rotational grazing is essential; a 4-paddock system works well
  • Aim to maintain height at 5–40cm
  • In late summer, allow stands to develop stems and set seed if regeneration is required
  • If sown as a component of a mixed pasture, rotational grazing is essential for persistence, but it is likely to decline anyway
  • Easily removed by set stocking
  • Plants very susceptible to overgrazing and trampling when dormant (ie in winter)
  • More erect varieties (eg grouse) have higher crowns and are more susceptible to overgrazing
Brassicas
  • Most brassicas are grown to maturity and grazed only once so strip grazing is needed to minimise trampling losses
  • Some forage Brassica hybrids are suited to multiple grazing – strip grazing minimises trampling losses and allows more rapid recovery
Not applicable
Source: Making More from Sheep, published by MLA.