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Cattle tracking to boost sustainability

CSIRO : 05 October, 2006  (Technical Article)
To improve land management and ensure long-term sustainability, state-of-the-art satellite technology is about to help. State-of-the-art satellite technology is about to help northern beef producers improve land management and ensure long-term sustainability by better understanding the grazing behaviour of their cattle.
Using collars on cattle fitted with global positioning system radio telemetry, CSIRO and Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Queensland scientists are using satellites to track the movement of cattle in the bush.

The aim of this new collaborative research project, being conducted at Wambiana station, 60km south-east of Charters Towers, is to answer why cattle select some soil types and not others and how stocking rates affect this selection process.

This joint CSIRO/DPI&F project on grazing selectivity adds value to the major grazing trial, co-funded by DPI&F and Meat and Livestock Australia, already in progress at Wambiana.

Cattle by nature selectively graze different parts of the landscape, leading to overuse and degradation of particular areas and a reduction in the landís long-term carrying capacity.

'With the GPS collars we can remotely track the movements of cattle without physically handling them,' says CSIRO Livestock Industriesí Dr Dave Swain.

'The collars are placed around the animalís neck, automatically logging its position to within five or 10 metres every hour. Monitoring where cattle are spending the majority of their time grazing will identify the particular soils they are attracted to and enable us to predict where they will graze in a large paddock,' he says.

The project at the Wambiana site, a property owned by the Lyons family, is part of a long-term DPI&F grazing trial established in 1997.

DPI&Fís Dr Peter OíReagain says extremely detailed biophysical data including soil type, soil fertility and pasture composition, is being collected at Wambiana.

'This data, together with other complementary research, will be of enormous benefit to this project. The results from the study will increase our understanding of grazing behaviour and assist producers in predicting where the heaviest grazing will occur,' he says.

Co-funded by MLAís Northern Beef Program, the project is designed to help develop new grazing strategies to ensure the long-term ecological sustainability and economic viability of northern savannas grazing.
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