Why Manage your Native Pastures?
Native pastures are vital for the long term
productivity and sustainability of many grazing
enterprises in the Mid and Upper North of SA.
Native pastures have the ability to change in
composition with season and respond to changes
in soil fertility and grazing pressure. The challenge
for land managers is to encourage or maintain
diversity in a changing environment and avoid
dominance by annual species.
But native grasses are vulnerable to overgrazing,
particularly when set stocked for long periods.
In many native pastures, after many years of
set stocking, the dominant plants are now annuals
such as wild oats and barley grass, as the native
perennial grasses cannot thrive under constant
Better grazing management of grasslands can
increase the biodiversity of native pastures
and the profitability of livestock enterprises,
resulting in a win-win situation for farmers
and the environment.
Native Pastures Management
To manage native pastures so they reach their
full production potential, the most important
thing to remember is rest is best! Rest is best
because native grasses are perennial plants – that
is, they survive for many years and regrow from
the same roots so they need time to recover from
Perennial plants grow from a long lived base
of roots and growing tips which can last for
many years. The plant may have dead material
standing above the ground with the growing tips
at the base of the plant just waiting for moisture
so that they can grow. A rainfall event activates
growth in the plant base and the plant sends
As the above ground parts of the plant grow,
the roots of the plant also grow. Roots are very
important to the plant. Not only do they capture
moisture and nutrients from the soil, they also
store excess energy produced by the leaves safely
below the ground as starch. When the top of the
plant is eaten by an animal, the stores of starch
in the roots provide the energy for new shoots
to be produced.
If a perennial grass plant is grazed – and
to keep it healthy, grasses need to be grazed – it
has the ability to recover quickly if it is not
grazed again before it has had time to regrow
its roots. If it is grazed again, the whole plant
is weakened because it does not have a renewed
store of energy in its roots from which to fuel
new stem and leaf growth. If this happens continually,
as it does in a set stocked pasture, the perennial
plants gradually get smaller and smaller, and
so weak that eventually they die.
Under natural conditions, grazing animals do
not stay in one place and eat. They like to eat
fresh grass and herds of animals will move on
to fresh pasture almost daily, leaving behind
large amounts of fertiliser and grasses which
have time to recover before the animals return.
Fences restrict animals to one area, where they
are forced to eat the same plants for days, and
sometimes even months.
Set stocking over a period of years results
in annual grasses dominating over the perennial
grasses and the pasture loses significant productive