Grazing Land Management

Stress-free stockmanship for production and weeds

Terry Sim, May 21, 2015
Sheep grazing serrated tussock.

Sheep grazing serrated tussock.

Sheep handling techniques that have increased lamb feedlot weight gains by up to 34 percent and initiated grazing of weeds will be outlined at a stress-free stockmanship workshop at Grenfell next month.

Central West NSW livestock producers will be introduced to innovative stress-free stockmanship techniques at the two-day workshop on June 17 and 18.

Stress Free Stockmanship principal Bruce Maynard will hold the workshop in partnership with Central West Local Land Services.

The workshop on June 17 and 18 will cover theory and practice on:

  • advanced animal movement and stock handling skills
  • eliminating stress factors in livestock for maximum production
  • weed eating – changing livestock into weed eaters
  • increasing daily gain (recent scientific studies show up to 34 percent).

Mr Maynard said after a day’s training of staff in stress-free stockmanship methods, the average daily weight gain of lambs in two WA feedlots increased by 33pc and 34pc.

“We tested the stress levels of the people and their cortisol levels went down as well.”

Stress-free handling to manage weeds

On the link between stress-free stockmanship and weed management, Mr Maynard said for the past 8-9 years he had been working with Professor Fred Provenza from the American-based group BEHAVE (www.behave.net). BEHAVE’s primary focus is on the diet and habitat selection of livestock, or understanding how animals learn, to train them to fit landscapes rather than modifying landscapes to fit animals.

Mr Maynard said he had been working with Prof. Provenza on broadening animal diets by “setting the right triggers” with stress free handling. In Australia, this has been used to initiate increased grazing of serrated tussock by sheep and cattle.

“If you completely de-stress animals then they are more willing to broaden their diet.

“And the great thing about behaviours is that animals take that with them …. until nudged in different new directions.”

The stress-free techniques have also been used to increase sheep grazing of thistles.

“We weren’t forcing sheep to do that, they were actually choosing to do that,” he said.

Self-herding on pastoral properties without fences

In WA, Mr Maynard is involved with a self-herding project on large pastoral properties where animals are being encouraged to move to or stay in certain areas without the need for fences.

“That’s behavioural-based again.

“The early results of the tracking have been nothing short of impressive and startling.”

Mr Maynard said most of the stress-free stockmanship knowledge is “new territory” for western countries, but is also “very old territory as well” overseas, though it has not had the explanatory science attached to it.

“If you think about village kids herding animals, for thousands of years, being able to take animals into mountain areas in the summer and leave them there, and come back and get them the next autumn,” he said.

Mr Maynard said stress-free stockmanship is not a variation of low-stress stock handling.

Grenfell course will be practical and on-farm

The Grenfell course will be run as a practical on-farm exercise, with extensive time for discussion of the research background and theory of stress-free stockmanship.

Land Services officer Stephen Pereira said the course offers the most up-to-date information on animal performance and animal-plant interactions, according to.

“Stockmanship influences animal behaviours including grazing effects in the paddock,” said Mr Pereira.

“This course is suitable for all people who handle livestock – no matter what their level of experience.

“We encourage you to register your interest early as places are strictly limited.”

To secure your place or find out more, contact Stephen Pereira on 0409 814 182 or [email protected]

Sources: Central West Local Land Services, Stress Free Stockmanship.

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