THE  RANGELAND 

How and why is it a disaster?

 Home FARMING ZONES IN WANA > You are here.

Farming zones in WANA

Overview of the zone

GUIDE  FOR FARMERS AND EXTENSION AGENTS

TECHNICAL BACKUP FOR EXTENSION PROGRAMS

POLICY MAKERS AND PROJECT PLANNERS

 HIGH   RAINFALL  ZONE

  ABOVE 500 mm

CEREAL  ZONE

     500 mm  to 200 mm 

    Medic overview

Deep ploughing overview

What cultivar?

 How does your medic grow?

   MARGINAL  ZONE 
   

  250 mm  to 150 mm

 Tenure and grazing management

RANGELAND

Below 200  mm

YOU ARE HERE

Action plan for flockowners

Water harvesting

What is the rangeland?

    In the WANA region rangeland is usually defined as the zone below about 200 mm of annual average rainfall that is used for extensive grazing.

The zone between 200 mm and 100 mm usually has some annual germination and growth of pasture.

The zone below 100 mm is dependent on infrequent storms.

The pattern of rainfall in the WANA region is concentrated in the winter.

In other regions with a summer rainfall pattern the boundary of the rangeland is quite different.

A better definition of the rangeland is based on the length of the growing season.

This data varies slightly from rainfall as higher altitude or proximity to the sea will reduce temperatures. The same amount of rainfall will be more effective for plant growth. The data on days of growth are not as readily available as rainfall and the differences are not great. 

Rangeland is also defined by use - extensive grazing. This will be discussed in the chapter on the marginal zone.

The WANA rangeland is grazed on a seasonal basis by sheep and some goats and camels.

The grazing takes place in winter and early spring.

During the rest of the year the livestock are taken to other pastures and/or fed supplementary feedstuffs.

As well as the low rainfall the Rangeland is different from other farming zones.

The rangeland is characterised by run-off and run-on areas.

This is a natural phenomena not just the result of land degradation.

The run-off and run-on areas in a well managed rangeland are close together.

Most rainfall runs off and is caught within a few tens of metres or hundreds of metres at the most.

As the rangeland becomes degraded by the removal of vegetative cover the water runs further.

It is not caught by local vegetation.

It is collected in the dry river system that normal collects extremely heavy rainfall events and is often wasted in salt lakes.
 

State of the rangeland fifty years ago and more...

    It is generally acknowledged that fifty years ago the Rangeland of the WANA region had the following characteristics:

    * Better vegetation cover.

Perennial cover of fodder shrubs, trees and grasses was much better.

    * Less soil erosion.

Run-off areas fed more quickly into run on areas.

Run-on areas collected water, soil and vegetable matter.

    What is not so generally acknowledged is:

    * There were extremely high death rates for livestock in dry years.

Death rates of 20 to 40% for sheep flocks is a single year have been recorded for the Jordanian rangeland in the 1920s and 1930s.

    * The poverty of the flockowners, particularly in dry years was extreme.

They lacked food and famine and malnutrition was common.

    These characteristics almost certainly represented the state of the rangeland for the thousands of years it has been utilised by man.

Major changes over the last fifty years

    * Disappearance of camel transport.

    The camel is one of the most efficient pack animals in the world.

It was used extensively throughout the WANA region for transport.

While the romantic image is of large camel caravans crossing deserts the truth is that it was used much more extensively throughout the region not just in the rangeland and desert zones.

The camel has been replaced by motor transport.

Camel populations have dropped dramatically.

    * Disappearance of horse transport.

    The camel was used mainly for load carrying.

The horse was used for personal transport in towns and cities throughout the WANA region and many were bred in the rangeland.

Horses have also ceased to be a means of practical transport and small numbers are kept for recreational purposes.

    * Rise in the price of meat.

    The price of the meat produced in the rangeland - almost all sheep but also goat and camel - has risen dramatically in price.

Other meat such as chicken has fallen in relative price terms but sheep meat has benefited from a strong market in wealthy cities in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

Sheep meat is the preferred meat for the WANA region.

Local breeds are preferred by consumers because their fat is concentrated in the tail or other zones and is not mingled in the muscle.

The local breeds command a significant premium in the market.

Sheep such as the Merino imported from Australia are not highly regarded for their meat and are discounted in the market.

    * Fall in the price of grain.

    While sheep meat prices have been rising in real terms the price of cereals has been falling.

This is the result of imports of cheap grains from Europe and USA not local production.

Governments in these northern temperate regions subsidise farmers to produce surpluses that are disposed of on world markets at below cost.

Governments in the WANA region have added further local subsidies.

All in all cereal grains have become very cheap.

Government throughout the world discuss the reduction of subsidies but prices generally remain low.

Fifty years ago it would have been inconceivable to purchase grain for nomadic flocks.

If the flockowners had the funds they would have used the grain for their own meagre diet.

Now grain is fed to sheep regularly.

    * Fall in the cost of transport.

    The low cost of motor transport has destroyed the economic base for transport by camel but the low cost has had a further impact.

It is now economic to transport grain into the rangeland and to transport animals out.

In the past grain was transported in only for human consumption on camels and animals walked out.

If the animals were too weak they died.

Flockowners had to manage their grazing and try to move their flocks to other areas before they became weak and died.

It is now possible to load them into large trucks and move them hundreds of kilometres.

    * Availability of LPG gas for cooking.

    All countries in the WANA region have good distribution systems for LPG in cylinders.

It is used for cooking and has taken some of pressure off the collection of firewood.

Firewood is still highly regarded for grilling meat so wood and and imported charcoal command good prices.

Current state of the rangeland

      It is generally acknowledged that the rangeland is now characterised by:

    * Poor vegetative cover.

Perennial plants have virtually disappeared in most areas.

    * High levels of erosion by wind and water mainly due to the above.

This degraded state has been attributed to OVER-GRAZING.

What does OVERGRAZING mean?

    The classic experiments on grazing were carried out many decades ago.

They were done on grass and clover pastures in the northern temperate regions not in the rangeland but it is still worth using them as a base for discussion of overgrazing.

TABLE 1

Shows the classic relationship between stocking rate and output per head and per ha.
 

Stocking rate Sheep/ha.

Output of meat per head in kg.

Output of meat per ha in kg.

1

8 kg

8 kg

2

12

24

3

11

33

4

9

36

5

6

25

6

1

6

7

-2

-14

    The sequence of events is as follows:-

    * 1 sheep to 2 sheep/ha.

    Heavier grazing reduces the tall grasses and encourages the clovers.

The quality of the pasture is better.

Growth per sheep and per ha increase.

    * 2 sheep to 4 sheep/ha

    Output per head falls but only slowly so the output per ha rises.

There are different optimum stocking rates.

These depend on whether the farmer makes more profit from high output per head or per ha.

High output per ha also carries more risk.

    * 4 sheep to 6 sheep/ha

    Both output per head and per ha are now falling.

This is over-grazing in an economic or management sense.

Farmers would not stock at these levels if they had complete control of the pasture. 

If the pasture is a common then flockowners may stock at these levels because their decision to reduce to a lower stocking rate would not necessarily be matched by other flockowners.

If that were the case their reduction would mean fewer sheep but no increase in output per sheep or per ha.

They are caught by the classic "tragedy of the common."

    * 6 sheep /ha and above.

    These levels are beyond the scope of the experiments as obviously the sheep will over time die of starvation.

Now grain can be fed to prevent death and there is no longer a natural limit to over-grazing.

    Applying these ideas to the rangeland requires some modification.

    * Fodder shrubs.

    The experiments quoted above on stocking rates were conducted on growing pasture and show the balance between sheep and pasture.

Fodder shrubs represent years of growth.

Grazing can continue at surprisingly high rates while the reserves are eaten but once the fodder shrubs have been eaten out and destroyed the capacity of the pasture to produce high levels of output collapses.

Over-grazing is occurring at the early stages but is not apparent because of the reserves from previous years.

This was dramatically demonstrated in South Australia in the 19th century. Rangeland areas had been grazed on a sustainable basis by kangaroos and other native animals for thousands of years.

Sheep were introduced by British settlers.

When they saw great areas of healthy atriplex they stocked the rangeland at 4 or more sheep per ha.

Government regulations forced them to do so.

After a decade or so large areas were destroyed and it was realised that the sustainable stocking rate was measured in ha. per sheep not sheep per ha.

    * The tragedy of the common.

    Most of the rangeland is grazed as a type of common (not a complete one by any means).

The result is that the decisions of an individual flockowner to adjust stocking rates to a more profitable level can be negated by other.

Unless there is a collective decision to reduce stocking rate the economic incentive is for a flockowner to graze as much as possible before other flockowners take the pasture for their sheep.

Over-grazing becomes a race between flockowners to exploit the pasture fully before it is exploited by others.

It is important not to exaggerate the common grazing of the rangeland.

It is not grazed as a complete common but rather as a series of overlapping and merging grazing paths. Elsewhere we show how the grazing culture can be changed.

    * Feeding cereals.

    Feeding cereals provides additional energy to sheep to over-grazing.

The sheep are fed cereals and then grazed.

In some cases the energy required to walk in search of feed on the rangeland is greater than the energy harvested from the feed.

In every case it is a most inefficient means of harvesting the feed.

It would be better to feed the grain to confined animals and allow the rangeland to recover before grazing but that is not possible because it is a common.

Why overgrazing now and not 50 years ago?

    The perceived reason for over-grazing is a breakdown of the social structure of tribe and family.

It is claimed these social structures prevented over-grazing and achieved a balance between pasture and animal populations.

This may have been the case but there were more powerful physical and economic forces at work which maintained a balance.

The balance between livestock and pasture was achieved at a high cost and no one would advocate a return to the traditional system where starvation played such an important role in grazing management.

    The other perceived reason for over-grazing is the so called "tragedy of the common."

This is an important reason but not nearly as crucial as it has been perceived by foreigners.

The rangeland in the WANA region is not a single "common" in the sense used by those who have modelled the "tragedy of the the common" scenario.

It is a series of grazing paths which may overlap and form mini commons between groups of two or three flock owning groups.
 

    * High death rate in the past.

    This was the most obvious check on over-grazing.

In a drought year there was a lack of feed.

Large numbers of animals died.

They could not be transported out.

They had to walk.

If they were weak they died.

The severe drop in animal populations during a drought allowed the rangeland to recover with a low stocking rate when good rains returned. This was particularly important for perennials.

Feed grains could not be imported into the rangeland because transport was too expensive and the animals carting the grain needed feed themselves.

The grain itself was too expensive.

The animals were too cheap.

The price relationship between sheep meat and grain has changed completely over the last 50 years.

   * Cheap grain and cheap transport.

    Transport costs have now changed.

Animals no longer walk out of the rangeland.

They are transported in trucks for hundreds of kilometres in a few hours.

Grain is now cheap relative to meat.

It is easily transported into the rangeland.

Livestock populations are now kept at high levels all the time.

In the past they crashed and then recovered which gave the rangeland vegetation time to recover.

Now the vegetation never has a recovery period.

Cheap transport also allows water to be carted from wells into more remote areas. These can be grazed and grazed for longer periods.

   * One off events.

    In Syria and Jordan much of the rangeland scrub was destroyed when coal supplies for the railways were blocked during the First World War.

High prices were paid for firewood and flockowners harvested large amounts in the rangeland for sale to the railways.

Putting these factors together.

   * Cheap transport.

    The current level of overgrazing is therefore sustained at a macro level by transport.

Sheep are moved in and out of the rangeland according to the feed.

Once the rangeland pasture has been eaten the sheep are move to another part or to the cereals stubbles.

In some countries the flocks have a complex pattern of movement that includes dryland cereal stubble and the residues of irrigated crops.

In itself this is not a bad system.

Well managed, it could be an efficient use of crop residues and rangeland pasture.

There are problems with perennial rangeland plants but over all it should not be dismissed completely.

   * Cheap grain.

    Cheap grain provides a micro level of over-grazing that is most destructive.

Grain is supplied to animals grazing the rangeland.

In some instances the energy obtained from the rangeland pasture is less than the energy expended by the animals in harvesting the plants on the range.

They would die if they were not provided with energy pep pills in the form of barley.

The flockowners would obtain better growth rates from confining the sheep.

It would also improve the pasture.

The rangeland has become in many instances a feedlot.

Over a number of years feed lotting animals on the rangeland breaks the seed cycle.

The first stage of degradation is to destroy the perennials.

The annuals are remarkably tough.

They desperately produce seed in spite of heavy grazing.

The seed falls on the ground and is difficult to harvest - at least completely.

Feeding cereal grain allows the survival of sheep well beyond the point that they would normally die.

They can continue to apply grazing pressure on flowering and seeding plants and then harvest the seed off the ground.

When this occurs year after year the plant population falls.

   * High livestock numbers philosophy.

    The natural reaction to high death rates in the past was high natural increase.

This is what happens in nature and was the traditional response.

It was a sensible strategy and essential for survival.

Now death rates have dropped new method of determining livestock populations are needed.

Perennial plant a particular problem.

    The germination of perennial plants - trees, shrubs and grasses - takes place during periods of good rainfall.

They require a period of reasonably light grazing to become established.

Once established they can withstand bouts of severe grazing but the present grazing pressure is too severe.

Most of the perennial vegetation has been destroyed.

What is left is not being renewed and will disappear when the current generation of plants die of old age (if they are not killed by over grazing first).
 

Strategies for restoring the rangeland.

    There has been a concentration of effort on technical fixes for the re-vegetation of the rangeland.

The destruction of the pasture is the most obvious symptom of overgrazing.

It was thought that improving the pasture should be the first step.

Unfortunately it is much more complex than a technical fix.

There is a link between the pasture and the grazing management.

There is also a link between the pasture, the management and the land ownership.

It is not possible to tackle each in isolation.

  * Fodder shrubs.

    Fodder shrubs have been the most popular technical fix for the rangeland.

Huge sums of money have been spent in most countries in the WANA region establishing areas of shrubs.

Atriplex is the most common species used but other shrubs and spineless cactus have been used from time to time.

    + Nursery seedlings.

    Originally shrubs were germinated in nurseries.

The seedlings were planted by hand in the rangeland and watered.

The cost was enormous.

Many countries in the WANA region have invested heavily in nurseries and planting equipment.

    + Direct seeding.

    More recently (over the last decade or so) fodder shrubs have been seeded directly into the rangeland.

The success rate is good and the cost a tiny fraction of the seedling, hand planting and watering method.

    + Management of fodder shrubs.

    In spite of the fact that fodder shrubs have been planted in the WANA region for 30 years there has been little research into grazing management.

Grazing management is particularly difficult.

The most common method of controlling the grazing is the "Pastoral Commissar" - that is a government official to control the numbers of livestock and the number of days the pasture is grazed.

Grazing management in Australia

 Fodder shrubs (largely Atriplex)  are the dominant vegetation in many rangeland areas of Australia with a climate similar to the rangeland areas of WANA.

They are grazed at a LOW STOCKING RATE and a LOW GRAZING PRESSURE.

Large areas are fenced.

A flock of sheep is left in the fenced area for the whole year.

The sheep browse the shrubs. The balance is observed and the flock numbers are adjusted.

Stocking rates vary between 1 sheep to 5 ha and 1 sheep to 20 ha.

Changes to the balance - that is over-grazing or under-grazing occur slowly.

Grazing management in WANA

    Fodder shrub areas in the WANA region are grazed completely differently.

They have a LOW STOCKING RATE and a HIGH GRAZING PRESSURE.

The HIGH GRAZING PRESSURE is due to the large numbers of sheep and other livestock in the area.

The STOCKING RATE is low because the sheep move on to other areas.

They do not graze the shrubs all the year.

It is quite common for flocks to graze fodder shrubs for periods of about 15 to 20 days twice a year. Let us say 35 days in all.

For example:

    In Australia 1 sheep is grazed on 10 ha = 0.1 sheep per ha. annual stocking rate.

    In the WANA region 1 sheep is grazed on 1 ha for 35 days = 0.1 sheep per ha. (approximately) annual stocking rate.

    Both areas have the same annual STOCKING RATE.

Does it matter that it was achieved in a different manner?

The WANA rate came from a HIGH GRAZING PRESSURE for a short period.

The Australian rate came from a LOW GRAZING PRESSURE for the whole year.

    The difficulty for the WANA system is that it is that it requires high levels of control.

Because the GRAZING PRESSURE is so high the time the flock is on the pasture is critical.

If the flock stays on the pasture for an extra week during the year this represents a 20% increase in the STOCKING RATE.

Two weeks represents a 40% increase.

Policy makers have chosen the most difficult management system available. It is the one with the most delicate balance.

    + How is it possible to over-graze fodder shrubs?

    Over-grazing (beyond the point of optimum economic return - see above) on most pastures in the Cereals Zone and High Rainfall Zone stops eventually because all the plant material has been eaten.

There is nothing left to overgraze.

The plant must be allowed to grow again.

With fodder shrubs the material "on offer" represents five to ten years growth.

On average the livestock should eat only 10 to 20% of the material "on offer."

If they eat more the shrubs will be weakened and over a few years die.

It is not easy to judge either the growth rate of the shrubs nor the amount eaten.

Whether the shrubs are growing at 10 or 20% per year is not obvious as it varies from year to year according to the season.

Whether the sheep eat 10 or 20% is not easy to judge either.

    The history of the South Australian rangeland provides a good case study of the difficulties.

When the rangeland was first explored by British settlers there was a excellent cover of fodder shrubs such as Atriplex.

There were annual grasses and broad leafed plants as well as trees is the areas that collected additional run off. The rangeland was grazed by kangaroos which in turn were hunted by aborigines.

The settlers had no idea of rangeland ecology, annual rainfall in that zone or the growth rate of Atriplex.

The government issued leases for grazing of the rangeland with sheep.

They were concerned that the leases should go to genuine flockowners and not be used for speculative purposes. They imposed conditions on the leases. The lease holder had to graze the lease or it lapsed.

The government surveyors looked at the magnificent growth of Atriplex and decided that a minimum stocking rate or 2 to 4 sheep per hectare should be applied to the leases.

Within a decade it was realised that there had been a total misunderstanding of the nature of the rangeland.

The vegetation "on offer" represented many decades of growth.

The leases had to be changed from a minimum of 2 to 4 sheep per ha. to a maximum of 1 sheep to 5 or 10 ha.

Fortunately the changes were made in time to save a great deal of the rangeland cover of fodder shrubs from total destruction.

The new regime of light browsing allowed the shrubs to survive.

Enforcement remained a problem with some lease holders over-grazed but the greater concern was the realisation that the shrubs were getting older and not being replaced by new plants.

    + Fodder shrubs and the pasture as a whole.

    Good rangeland pastures consist of perennial shrubs and annual plants.

The annuals consist of grasses and broad leafed plants including some legumes.

The perennials are drought resistant plants. They can withstand drought during the long summer period and over a number of years if winter rains fail.

The perennials are deep roots (hence the need to have a good season for establishment) and as the plants compete with each other for moisture they are widely spaced.

Dense plantings of perennials will not survive.

The annuals are drought evasion plants. They can withstand drought during the summer in the form of seed.

They withstand the failure of the winter rains through the hard seed mechanism.

This mechanism means that seeds germinate over a period of many years.

Annuals use more of the moisture near the surface. The plant populations are dense and fill the gaps between perennials.

All the effort has been put into the fodder shrubs.

The annuals have been left to regenerate naturally. A well balanced rangeland pasture has both.

More effort needs to be put into selecting and seeding suitable annuals and providing phosphate fertiliser for optimum growth.

    + Palatability of fodder shrubs

    One of the mechanisms used by plants in nature to survive grazing is unpalatability.

In the rangeland this is particularly important as plants grow slowly due to lack of moisture and grazing can easily destroy the plant.

It has been a struggle with the fodder shrub planting program to find shrubs that are palatable.

The Atriplex and spineless cactus are better than most but livestock prefer the annual plants for most of the year.

Research has shown again and again that the perennials can provide 90% of the pasture "on offer" but only 10% of the diet.

Annuals may provide 10% of the pasture "on offer" but 90% of the diet.

This is a great survival mechanism for the perennials but demonstrates that they often do not contribute much to animal production.

If animal production is the objective of the investment then annuals will achieve a much higher return.
 

Table 1

Sheep on Atriplex pastures in Australia

SEASON

Digestibility of pasture %

Atriplex intake as % of total dry matter intake.

COMMENT

Atriplex

Under-story of annuals

AUTUMN

55

50

55

Dried off annuals have low feed value at end of summer and autumn.

WINTER

55

85

16

Annuals now green.

SPRING

55

75

10

Annuals green and greater quantity.

SUMMER

55

60

38

Annuals have dried off.

    + Improving the fertility of the soil

    Most scientists have seen the rangeland as such a harsh environment that it is a triumph to grow a fodder shrub.

It fact the rangeland responds to improved fertility in the same way as other pasture zones.

To obtain the optimum pasture production plants must have adequate nitrogen and phosphate (the two elements most commonly deficient).

Because of the erratic rainfall the only economic source of nitrogen is legumes fertilised with phosphate.

These nutrients are required to fertiliser fodder shrubs but have been ignored in most fodder shrub projects (except where lucerne shrubs have been used).
 

    * Medic pasture

    In Libya and Iraq large areas of the rangeland have been sown with medics.

The principle areas have been the Benghazi plain, Wadi Karouba and the Wadi el Bab in eastern Libya, Adjulat in western Libya and J'Ravi in Iraq.

In each project there are many thousand of hectares that have been sown in a couple of years at low cost.

    The medic pasture has provided a nutritious pasture that is palatable to sheep and other livestock.

It has also improved the fertility of the soil.

    The medic varieties and cultivars used have been from the low rainfall parts of the cereal zone.

They have adapted well to the rangeland environment.

There is a considerable opportunity to take the technique into more arid parts of the rangeland by the selection and multiplication of seed from shorter season varieties.

    There has been a lack of understanding of the adaptability of medic by scientists from countries outside the WANA region and Australia.

    + Grazing management

    Medic pastures have been grazed in the same way as other rangeland pastures and fodder shrubs.

They are grazed for short periods at HIGH GRAZING PRESSURE.

The medic pasture is much more resistant to overgrazing.

    During winter the green medic can be over-grazed in terms of the optimum plant cover (see Grazing green medic ) but this does not threaten the survival of the pasture.

The production will be less but the plants will recover.

    In the spring the green medic pods are vulnerable to over-grazing when large numbers of sheep are introduced suddenly.

This will be a disaster in the first season but once the medic pasture is established and there are reserves of pods containing hard seed in the ground the pasture can recover.

The failure of the pasture to produce any pods in a single year due to drought or over grazing is not a disaster.

 Once the pods have fallen on the ground in summer they are more difficult to graze.

Sheep have a great ability to harvest pods off the ground but the action of their hooves also buries some. It is normally quite safe to graze 80 to 90% of the pods.

If grazing continues beyond this point the regeneration in future years will be weak but grazing the last 10 to 20% of the pods is difficult and sheep would need supplementary feeding with barley to vacuum clean the rangeland to this extent.

    If the medic pasture is over-grazed year after year it will be destroyed.

That is what has happened to the naturally occurring medic.

If these over grazing events occur infrequently the pasture will bounce back to full production from reserves of seeds in the ground.

    + Abundance

    In the example mention (Libya and Iraq) the sheer abundance of the medic has been a major protection against over grazing.

Abundance = area X productivity.

Large areas have been sown rapidly and they have been highly productive.

There have not been enough local sheep to over-graze the medic.

In Libya on the Benghazi Plain the abundance was so great that the Development Authority decided to cut hay.

This angered the flockowners who burnt some of the hay in protest.

    + Why has medic not been used more often?

    The techniques used for the establishment of the medic in the rangeland have generally been the same as those used in the Cereals Zone.

Large tractors and scarifier-seeders have cultivated and sown the medic seed in a single operation.

At the Wadi el Bab medic seed was broadcast by air and then oat seed and fertiliser were cultivated into the ground.

Not all the rangeland can be cultivated in this way.

The seeders used have spring release tines and are extremely tough. They can handle rough ground and stones.


 A very large proportion of the rangeland (and an even larger proportion of the area with better soil) could be sown in this manner.

It is not the perception of the project managers who see the cultivation of the rangeland (quite rightly) as the problem.

There is however an enormous difference between a single cultivation to sow medic and annual cultivation to sow barley.

These medic pasture projects in the rangeland were sown with seed from Australia.

Using medic pods would be much better but the pod method of sowing was developed in the 1990s while the medic pastures in the rangeland were developed in the 1970s and 1980s.

    * Natural regeneration.

    There is a growing trend toward natural regeneration as a means of re-vegetating the rangeland.

The reason is cost.

Economic analysis of fodder shrubs shows that the cost benefits are very poor.

Resting the rangeland and allowing the plants to recover provides a better return.

The difficulty with natural regeneration is that years of over-grazing have favoured unpalatable plants.

They survive better.

Resting the rangeland will allow them to grow.

Over a period of years with better grazing management it is possible to shift the balance back toward a better quality pasture.

Unfortunately the knowledge of the medic pastures has been lost.

It could be combined with natural regeneration.

By broadcasting medic pods and phosphate fertiliser over the rangeland the balance could be pushed towards a quality pasture.
 

* Does rangeland revegetation matter?

    In terms of production of meat the rangeland in the WANA region is unimportant.

Again turning to South Australia with its vast rangeland we can see that in the 19th century these huge areas of natural pasture played a vital part in the livestock industry.

Most of the area was grazed by sheep for wool production but the more distant and arid areas were grazed with cattle.

Since the 1920s and 1930s the importance of the South Australian rangeland has declined.

Absolute output has fallen while production from improve pastures in the cereal and high rainfall zones has increases by hundreds and hundreds of percent.

First the High Rainfall Zone showed vast increases due to the sowing of sub clover pasture fertilised with phosphate and trace elements. This was the sub and super revolution.

After 1950s most of the fallow in the cereal fallow rotation was converted to medic.

Now the livestock industry of the rangeland is an unimportant fringe to the South Australian livestock industry.

Exactly the same applies to the rangeland in the WANA region.

It can be improved but the opportunities are limited while enormous expansion is possible in the zones with more rainfall.
 

The re-vegetation of the rangeland is therefore justified in terms of assisting flockowners rather than expanding meat production.

It is also justified in terms of reducing soil erosion.

* Alternative areas.

    WANA flockowners are mobile.

They move each year from the rangeland into the cereal zone to graze the cereal stubble.

If the flockowner becomes the focus of assistance rather than the land better pastures in the Cereal Zone become an alternative strategy.

* Alternative uses.

    Project planners also need to consider whether alternative uses for the WANA rangeland could be of greater benefit to flockowners.

Rangeland tourism and hunting are two obvious alternative uses.
 

* Marketing

    Once the focus changes from meat production to better incomes for flockowners in the rangeland it is possible to consider not just tourism and hunting but better marketing of the existing production.

Range fed sheep can be developed as a special product commanding a premium price.

If they are also fed to tourists the value to the flockowner is increased even more.