Natural grazing practices in spotlight

Grazing Naturally's Dick Richardson is an expert in holistic grazing practices. Photo: Jessica Johnston.
Grazing Naturally's Dick Richardson is an expert in holistic grazing practices. Photo: Jessica Johnston.

Using animals to build soil depth and maturity are among the natural grazing practices that can be used to improve pasture and soil health during times of drought.

Ecological grazing expert Dick Richardson will be guest speaker at a Grazing Management Workshop to be held at Murray and David Walker's property "Cumnock Farm" 9km from Grenfell on the Young Road.

The workshop, on June 25, is free with catering provided but if you want to attend you need to contact Stephen Pereira on 0409 814 182 or email stephen.pereira@lls.nsw.gov.au

Mr Richardson has spent a lifetime studying grazing practices around the world under a range of different climatic conditions.

He uses his expertise to host workshops for graziers around Australia.

Ahead of a workshop in northern Queensland earlier this year Mr Richardson said there are some practices all graziers could benefit from regardless of whether they found themselves in drought, or post flood.

"Basically natural grazing is about using livestock and grazing patterns with a management of their time intensity and frequency of grazing to stimulate grass grown about the ground in terms of quality and quantify, and for it to develop underground to develop more mature soil," he said.

"It's to help people get a balance with their stocking rates to increase carrying capacity."

Mr Richardson said people should have more stock on less country at any given time to optimise both plant and soil health.

"Grazing should be more intense for a shorter duration, after that it's a matter of keeping some of the country during the growing season in a shorter, more productive state, while some of the country gets the opportunity for a long term spell.

"At the end of the growing season it's about ensuring we've got some country that is still relatively short and hayed off in high quality.

"With conventional managers the most common error is they simply reduce numbers with leads to massive problems with scrub thickening, bush encroachment.

"Lighter stocking rates are perceived to be doing the right thing but quality grasses are dying with a lack of utilisation, or too lighter utilisation."

Mr Richardson said managing grasslands with grazing animals, using paddock-specific patterns, could capture water and build soil carbon and whole ecosystem health.

"It can be a very powerful tool."

The workshop will focus on:

  • The effect of management changes on ecology;
  • Gaining an insight into the failure of grazing systems;
  • Why holistic and cell grazing works initially, then fails or leads to stagnation;
  • The importance of soil depth on profitability and practical ways to increase it;
  • Using animals to build soil depth and maturity;
  • The relationship between management decisions and landscape function;
  • Sole, toe, ankle and calf (STAC) method of feed assessment;
  • An introduction to the Maia computer program for whole of property grazing plans and monitoring grazing history.

Dick Richardson developed a life-long passion for ecological farming growing up on the land. He ran sheep and cattle in conjunction with wildlife on Richardson Ranching, a 7000ha livestock business in the Kalahari thorn veld of South Africa.

He moved to Australia in 2009 as the manager of Margan Pastoral Company's 2200ha Boorowa properties and ran his own 800ha block 'Spring Valley' nearby.