Around the Camp: Grazing patterns, shearing sheds, carbon shortcuts, fibre traceability, rotate right, fend off ferals

  1. Quick picks – podcast, new coordinator, where to worm test, pain relief, shed stickybeak, resistant flies
  2. Deep dive – Grazing patterns and the science aiding pasture utilisation
  3. Upcoming Leading Sheep events
  4. Upcoming events
  5. Podcasts, eBulletins and surveys

Quick picks

Shearing shed showcase. Proway Livestock Equipment and Australian Wool Innovation hosted an on-farm open day at Mandurama, NSW, in November. Attendees saw the new 6-stand lane delivery shearing shed and sheep yard complex in action. Click here to watch a short clip of the day. You can also read more in the December edition of Beyond the Bale.

In the know: Carbon shortcuts. This four-part podcast by the Humans of Agriculture goes through all things carbon in easy-to-understand bite-sized pieces. It features a discussion with sustainable agriculture expert Professor Richard Eckard from the University of Melbourne. Professor Eckard’s work includes developing greenhouse gas accounting tools for agriculture and establishing the scientific basis for six Australian carbon offset methods.

Rotate right: Winning against worms. Following last month’s quick pick on worm burdens, we are turning our attention to combating drench resistance. Rotating drenches is important, but we must rotate actives rather than just drench names. It’s possible that different brand names can contain an active from the same chemical group or even the same active .Test your sheep before drenching, then 10 to 14 days later to assess the effectiveness of the drenching. You can read the new worm count fact sheet or use the Paraboss product search to find a drench with a different active.

Fibre facts: Queensland on top. Did you know the Australian Wool Testing Authority can use property identification codes (PICs) in its presale testing process if declared? (The PIC will remain anonymous.) This would enable tracing of affected wool batches in the event of an emergency animal disease outbreak. The system’s success relies on broad participation. Industry groups are working to improve declaration rates. Queensland is leading the way in 2023, with a rate of just over 60%. For more details, click here.

Fend off ferals. Some areas have had good breeding conditions for feral pigs. A spike in the feral pig population will present challenges in future lambing seasons. Beyond predation, pigs carry diseases like leptospirosis that can cause reproductive issues in your flock. Poisoning is one of the most effective control techniques. If baiting or trapping, free feeding before laying the poisoned bait or setting the gate on your trap are the keys to success. The longer you feed in the trap before setting the gate or free feed before laying the poisoned grain, the more successful the program will be. For guidance on control strategies, including sodium fluoroacetate (1080), please consult your local council.

2023 South West Queensland Climate Review now available!  This is a new tailored resource for graziers in south-west Queensland from the Northern Australian Climate Program. The report includes a review of climate trends including rainfall, temperature variations and influential climate drivers. It also includes a look back at forecasts made throughout the year.

Calling all ewe enthusiasts: Participate in our maiden management survey! The ‘Making maidens weight’ producer group in the north and central-west region would like to know how you manage your maiden ewes. The information from this survey will be used to guide the group’s activities and events over the next 2 years. It will also help assess the impact of the project. What do you get out of it? Tailored events and resources to improve skills and knowledge for udder assessment, body condition scoring, wet/drying, pregnancy scanning, feeding to target weights and managing data stored on electronic tags. Click here to complete the short survey.

Growing grower groups in south-west Queensland! Want to be involved in a sheep growers group that focuses on increasing reproduction performance in Queensland’s rangelands? A two-year Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) co-contributor program facilitated by Anthony Shepherd of Sheepmatters will elevate flock productivity for sheep producers in south-western Queensland. The program will use electronic ID (eID) for precise breeding data. Participants’ annual contribution is $900 (ex GST). To join or for more information, email


Back to the top

Deep dive – Grazing patterns and the science aiding pasture utilisation control

Extension officer and vet Keira Sharman writes this article on grazing influences on sheep.

Have you ever wondered why some sheep do better in a drought but worse in a good season or vice versa? It could be due to their personality!

Understanding movement patterns and grazing distribution of sheep within paddocks can help land managers make the most of pastures, maintain and improve rangeland health and increase animal productivity. Carrying capacity could even benefit from increased evenness of grazing.

Preferential grazing is determined by various factors – including genetics, experience, individual nutritional and physiological condition, and the environment – with a recent Australian study of Merinos examining some of the ‘why’ behind sheep grazing behaviours.

As many graziers know, distance to water is critical to grazing distribution. In rangelands, daily sheep behaviours are centred around water sources. Studies have shown that when vegetation is abundant, sheep will remain within 2.5km of a water source, but when feed is limited, they may travel 3 to 4km from water. The study found that increasing distance to water decreased forage intake, with decline starting from 1.6km and increasing up to 4km.

Weather also influences grazing. Stock will seek shelter to avoid temperature extremes, wind, rain and sun. Merino studies found hot days decreased the distance travelled and time spent grazing. Temperature also influences water intake. Merinos consume double the amount of water when the temperature is over 30oC, but less water in temperatures of 38oC and over. There is also a reduction in the number of trips to water sources during extreme heat. Many of you will be well aware of the impacts of wind direction, with sheep facing into oncoming winds and grazing on the windward side of paddocks year-round, regardless of season.

Variation in individual foraging personalities and patch grazing tendencies can influence pasture utilization. Researchers have identified two foraging personalities: slow and fast explorers. Slow explorers – efficient and successful in patchy landscapes – were observed to take their time and assess all resources. Fast explorers ate quickly and rapidly moved across the environment with minimal exploration time. They were deemed to be more proficient with uniformly distributed resources.

Sheep are herd animals, most comfortable maintaining close distances to the group. Visual contact with other sheep is preferred, with vegetation scarcity influencing separation tolerance of up to 15m from the core of the flock. Smaller grazing groups or subgroups may develop across low forage landscapes. Merino sheep were only found to exhibit this when vegetation was extremely lacking and were observed to stay together as a whole flock for longer than other breeds. Social hierarchy impacts a sheep’s access to feed and grazing habits, along with access and time spent in shaded areas. Fluctuations in weather and dietary requirements impact activity levels, with dawn and dusk the primary grazing periods. Seasonal variance was also observed, with increased grazing during these periods in summer to compensate for the extended periods of rest during the heat of the day.

A lot of this might ring a bell, so understanding a bit more of the science might help you better consider these behaviours alongside your pasture management.

Upcoming Leading Sheep events

  • Save the date: The annual Leading Sheep Forum and Dinner will be held on Friday 22 March 2024. Stay tuned for further details.
  • Have you got an idea for a workshop or webinar? Our regional producer committees want to hear from you before they meet this month. Find your local coordinator or committee member (chances are you’ll know one!) and let them know, or email us. We hope to see you this year!

Upcoming events

  • 1 February. Summer Silage Solutions, Ballaroo. Delivered by DAF. Click here to register.
  • 15-16 February. Carbon Edge, Roma. For more information and to register click here
  • 19 February. Rain Gauge: Forecasting for a Profitable Future Module 2, Chinchilla. For more information and to register click here
  • 19-21 February. Nutrition EDGE, Longreach. For more information and to register click here
  • 21-22 February. Rain Gauge: Forecasting for a Profitable Future Module 2 and 3, Blackall. For more info and to register click here
  • 22 February. Sheep Handler Demonstration On Farm Field Day, Bathurst. For more information and to register click here

Podcasts, eBulletins and surveys

Back to the top. 


Leave a comment