Management of total grazing pressure to increase groundcover and to minimise desertification risk [Australia]

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Reporting Entity: Australia

Completeness: 80%

General Information

General Information

Title of best practice:

Management of total grazing pressure to increase groundcover and to minimise desertification risk



Reporting Entity:



Prevailing land use in the specified location

  • Cropland
  • Grazing land

Irrigated cotton production; mining; tourism; natural conservation

Contribution to Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) measures

  • Prevention
  • Mitigation
  • Adaptation
  • Rehabilitation

Contribution to the strategic objectives

  • To improve the living conditions of affected populations
  • To improve the conditions of affected ecosystems
  • To generate global benefits through effective implementation of the Convention

Linkages with the other best practice themes

  • Capacity-building and awareness-raising
  • DLDD and SLM monitoring and assessment/research
  • Knowledge management and decision support
  • Policy, legislative and institutional framework
  • Funding and resource mobilization
  • Participation, collaboration and networking


Section 1. Context of the best practice: frame conditions (natural and human environment)

Short description of the best practice

Groundcover management: Soil erosion is being addressed by working to increase native perennial ground cover to 60%, where the typical cover is approximately 20%. The growth of woody species is being managed in this project to allow growth of perennial grasses and forbs.
Managing total grazing pressure: On semi-arid rangelands, livestock as well as feral (e.g. goats) or native grazers (e.g. kangaroos) are dependent on artificial watering points for drinking. Control of access to watering points using fencing allows paddocks and vegetation to be periodically rested from grazing pressure to allow vegetation, including native vegetation, to regenerate. Total grazing pressure can also be reduced through use of trap yards to capture feral goats for removal.
Capacity building: Landholders are assisted to adopt improved grazing management practices including through grazing management courses and membership of the local Landcare Group (for support and technical information). |


A 21,000ha grazing property near Cobar in western New South Wales (NSW),Australia, in the Western Natural Resource Management (NRM) region which is the largest catchment in NSW (approx 230,000sqkm) & encompasses a series of river systems & the most diverse rangelands in NSW. |

If the location has well defined boundaries, specify its extension in hectares:


Estimated population living in the location:


Brief description of the natural environment within the specified location.

Semi-arid climate with highly variable rainfall with no seasonal dominance. Particularly dry for the last ten years. Mean rainfall of 336mm per year
Typical Cobar Peneplain (extensive area of plateau or low land with undulating surface) type country, with hard red ridges and associated drainage flats. Hard red ridges have hard red clay loam soils with a hard surface. Drainage flats consist of hard red loam to clay loam soils to depth. |
See response to Soil (above). Undulating country with low slopes of 2-3% and subdued crests.  Groundcover is generally spare on the hard red ridges, increasng on the dranage flats due to extra run-off received.|

Prevailing socio-economic conditions of those living in the location and/or nearby

The Catchment is predominantly leasehold land, administered under the Western Lands Act 1901 by the New South Wales state government. Leases under the Act include provisions relating to matters such as land use and stocking rates. There are more than 630 pastoral and agricultural holdings.|
Low wool prices through the 1990s led to some loss of social infrastructure. Fewer young people are returning to properties. Off-farm incomes lower than non-rangeland areas. Values of pastoral properties decreased between 1996 and 2002, with some recovery since. Relatively small properties have been rendered non-viable by woody thickening.|

On the basis of which criteria and/or indicator(s) (not related to The Strategy) the proposed practice and corresponding technology has been considered as 'best'?

Managing total grazing pressure: principles for land management practices outlined within the Australian Government’s Management of total grazing pressure - Managing for biodiversity in the rangelands, 2005.
Feral goat control: principles outlined within the Australian Government’s Threat Abatement Plan for Feral Goats, 2008.

Section 2. Problems addressed (direct and indirect causes) and objectives of the best practice

Main problems addressed by the best practice

Best practice management of total grazing pressure addresses problems caused by low ground cover and feral goats including: land degradation through wind/water erosion causing soil loss and reduced soil condition; loss of vegetation diversity and condition; and impacts on native fauna habitat and food resources through competition by feral goats.

Outline specific land degradation problems addressed by the best practice

Land degradation can be caused by uncontrolled grazing (including pressure from feral goats) which causes vegetation stress and reduced resilience in dry periods leading to a lack of ground cover. This can then result in soil loss through wind and water erosion, leading to a loss of soil condition, including reduced permeability and carbon content which further contributes to low groundcover. Feral goats browse extensively which can cause tree/shrub death and/or limit species recruitment. This degrades vegetation diversity/condition and can cause loss of habitat and food resources for native fauna through competition by feral goats.|

Specify the objectives of the best practice

To achieve sustainable grazing levels to maintain groundcover above target levels to help prevent soil erosion, land degradation and desertification, increase landscape resilience to climate variability and climate change, and maintain biodiversity.|

Section 3. Activities

Brief description of main activities, by objective

Maintaining biodiversity – activities include feral goat control to reduce grazing pressure impacts on vegetation diversity/condition and reduce loss of habitat and food resources for native fauna cause by competition by feral goats.
To achieve sustainable grazing levels to maintain groundcover above target levels to help prevent soil erosion, land degradation and desertification, increase landscape resilience to climate variability and climate change, and maintain biodiversity.
Sustainable grazing levels to maintain groundcover above target levels – activities include fencing areas of land to manage the grazing pressure of livestock and native and feral animals by resting vegetation periodically.|
Sustainable grazing levels to maintain groundcover above target levels – activities include trapping watering points to control the additional grazing pressure from feral goats by removing them from the property.

Short description and technical specifications of the technology

Fencing – physical barriers are provided by mesh-type and electric fencing to allow stock movement between paddocks to distribute grazing pressure.
Trapping watering points – involves one-way gates which allow animals (including feral goats) to enter but not leave the small paddock that surrounds the watering point. Once the animals are enclosed, the feral goats can be separated from livestock and removed from the property to reduce total grazing pressure.
Grazing management (feral goat control) - Regardless of season, landholders (including park managers) cannot effectively manage groundcover or vegetation condition unless total grazing pressure from feral goats, kangaroos and rabbits is controlled. As described in Australia’s 2002 National Report to the UNCCD, over-grazing by introduced and native herbivores (total grazing pressure) is a cause of land degradation in Australia’s rangelands.
The best practice management of ground cover through activities such as fencing, trapping watering points, and grazing management (feral goat control) is monitored. This includes:
• A program of annual photo points used at several sites over the past five years, to show changes (improvements) in groundcover over time with improved grazing management.
• Step point monitoring along transects to assess ground cover (level and competition) and record observations such as the existence of bare ground, leaf litter, grasses and shrubs.

Section 4. Institutions/actors involved (collaboration, participation, role of stakeholders)

Was the technology developed in partnership?


List the partners:

A number of private businesses are involved in supplying fencing and trap gates. Erecting of fencing and trap yards was conducted either by the landholders or contractors.

Specify the framework within which the technology was promoted


This technology is promoted within the Western natural resource management region, and other natural resource management regions in the semi-arid zones (rangelands) throughout Australia.

Was the participation of local stakeholders, including CSOs, fostered in the development of the technology?


List local stakeholders involved:

Stakeholders (landholders) were engaged via educational field days, grazing training courses, the Catchment Management Authority website, demonstrations, and fact sheets. Additionally, word of mouth amongst landholders played a significant role in disseminating information.|The public benefits achieved includes improved biodiversity and increased soil carbon over large areas of land, and sustainable pastoral enterprises.

For the stakeholders listed above, specify their role in the design, introduction, use and maintenance of the technology, if any.

The Western Catchment Management Authority managed the project and engaged the community and landholders by offering support, including information and training for landholders to adopt improved grazing management practices. The landholder role is to integrate the best management practices into their farming system and maintain the practices over time.|

Was the population living in the location and/or nearby involved in the development of the technology?


By means of what?
  • Participatory approaches

The grazing management systems are adapted to local conditions and farming systems and often designed by local landholders to obtain the best outcome and greatest efficiency to improve environmental outcomes.


Section 5. Contribution to impact

Describe on-site impacts (the major two impacts by category)

Improved vegetation condition, biodiversity, soil condition and increased resilience of the ecosystem and landscape to impacts of climate change.|
This leads to positive economic impacts on rural communities and their social wellbeing.
Improved ground cover, reduced wind erosion of soil, and improved total grazing pressure management results in a longer term financial viability of productive land and ability to use the land for productive purposes.|
Farmers have a greater sense of purpose and control of their land and feel encouraged that improving ground cover management results in improved biodiversity with longlasting benefits, including to the production system.|

Describe the major two off-site (i.e. not occurring in the location but in the surrounding areas) impacts

Positive off-site impacts include reduced generation of dust and sediment; increased capacity for carbon sequestration; increased biodiversity; providing corridors for species movement.

Impact on biodiversity and climate change

Explain the reasons:

Competition and land degradation by feral goats are listed as a key threatening process under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Of the threatened species listed under the EPBC Act, feral goats are considered a threat to 8 bird species, 3 mammal species, 1 insect and 44 plant species.  This is a widespread issue throughout Australian rangelands and by controlling feral goats, the biodiversity impacts and land degradation problems caused by them can be addressed. Farmers’ adoption of sustainable grazing management strategies increases groundcover, including native species. For example, in some Western Catchment Management Authority projects, total vegetation cover (annuals and perennials) is approximately 78% in areas using best practice, compared to areas not using best practice where vegetation cover is approximately 21%.|
Adoption of sustainable grazing management practices has the potential to increase ecosystem and production system resilience to the impacts of climate change, allowing for adaptation. Improved ground cover improves soil condition through increasing soil carbon which can improve soil water holding capacity and nutrient availability. Healthy soil provides a number of services to build ecosystem resilience, including food and habitat for biodiversity, erosion control, improved buffering capacity as well as sequestering carbon dioxide.|
Improving ground cover in grazing systems can increase the carbon content of soil. Healthy soil provides a number of services including carbon dioxide sequestration potential.

Section 6. Adoption and replicability

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?



Stakeholders in the Western natural resource management region were engaged via educational field days, grazing training courses, the Catchment Management Authority website, demonstrations and fact sheets. Additionally, word of mouth amongst landholders played a significant role in disseminating information.|The practice can be replicated at property scales, and when properties using the best practice adjoin, the scale can be regional. Also, strategically targeting “feral goat hotspots” can achieve better results for less expenditure. For example, controlling feral goats at their preferred breeding grounds will achieve broader results and/or controlling feral goats around targeted land degradation areas can achieve broader results for biodiversity.

Were incentives to facilitate the take up of the technology provided?

Were incentives to facilitate the take up of the technology provided?


Specify which type of incentives:
  • Policy or regulatory incentives (for example, related to market requirements and regulations, import/export, foreign investment, research & development support, etc)
  • Financial incentives (for example, preferential rates, State aid, subsidies, cash grants, loan guarantees, etc)

Can you identify the three main conditions that led to the success of the presented best practice/technology?

The best practice is practical, demonstrable, easily adopted and fits into landholders’ current farming systems. It produces dual outcomes of biodiversity enhancement and productivity benefits. Landholder contribution (at least 50% of project costs) is a criterion for receiving financial incentives. Landholders are provided with training/information to assist adoption.|


In your opinion, the best practice/technology you have proposed can be replicated, although with some level of adaptation, elsewhere?


At which level?
  • Local
  • Sub-national

Section 7. Lessons learned

Related to technical aspects

The monitoring requirements for this case-study project allow lessons to be learnt along the life of the project. This includes increasing understanding of the outcomes that can be achieved. |Monitoring is through:
1 Use of photopoints, established before any works are commenced, and then repeated annually for a period of 10 years after the project is completed to record changes to groundcover;
2 A count of the number of goats removed per year;
3 Self-evaluation reports by the landholder ononce the project establishment is completed, and five years after the project contract is signed.

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