Kimberley cattle producers expand pasture identification knowledge

[April 2015]

Nearly 50 people attended workshops earlier this month at Flora Valley Station, Gogo Station and Roebuck Plains Station to learn more about managing grazing pastures through plant identification.

Rangelands NRM, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) presented the three one-day workshops from March 30–2 April aimed at improving knowledge of pasture plants and plant indicators of rangeland condition.

Rangelands NRM Project Manager (Kimberley), Mel McDonald said the workshops covered how to identify native pasture species under cattle grazing (herbs, grasses and shrubs); how to take samples and photos for further identification; and the relationship between different soil types and plant species. 

“Out in the paddock, participants examined what cattle were eating and what they were not,” she said.

“As the diet of cattle influences productivity the field sessions yielded good discussions and gave good context for later sessions of plant taxonomy and identifying plants using available resources.”

Perth-based botanist Andrew Mitchell presented a basic introduction to plant taxonomy and led the field identification sessions.

“It is not always so important to remember the exact name of individual species but it is good to have an understanding of what it is related to and what it means in the landscape,” Mr Mitchell said.

DAFWA land and water assessment development officer Kath Ryan said the workshops helped producers recognise early-stage range condition decline which was common on properties across WA. By recognising the signs based on plant indicator species, pastoralists could manage degradation in the early stages and restore the condition of rangelands.

“The most effective method for improving and maintaining rangeland condition is to align stock numbers to the amount of available feed on offer,” Ms Ryan said.

“The ability to identify the plant species is fundamental to this. Grazing management techniques such as spelling country over the growing season are also useful,” she said.

Rangelands NRM promotes collaboration and information sharing that helps people to use the land productively and sustainably.

Photo 1 Participants at Flora Valley Station pasture identification workshop 
Photo 2 Participants at Gogo Station pasture identification workshop