Grazing Management: Setting the Table, Designing the Menu and Influencing the Diet

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Animal Production Science






C S I R O Publishing

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Pastoral livestock-production systems are under increasing environmental, social and consumer pressures to reduce environmental impacts and to enhance biodiversity and animal welfare. At the same time, farmers face the challenge of managing grazing, which is intimately linked with profitability. Recent advances in understanding grazing patterns and nutritional ecology may help alleviate such pressures. For instance, by managing grazing to (1) manipulate links between ingestive–digestive decisions and temporal patterns of nutrient excretion, (2) provide phytochemically diverse diets at appropriate temporal (the menu) and spatial (the table) scales and (3) influence the behaviour of animals (the diners) on the basis of their specific ‘personalities’ and needs, to overcome or enhance animal differences, thereby enhancing their and farm productivity and welfare, as well as our health. Under pastoral systems, synergies between animals’ and farmers’ grazing decisions have the potential to offer greater benefits to the animal, the environment and the farm than does simple and parsimonious grazing management based on a single component of the system. In the present review, we look at grazing and its management through an alternate lens, drawing ideas and hypotheses to stimulate thinking, dialogue and discussions that we anticipate will evolve into innovative research programs and grazing strategies. To do so, we combined experimental and observational studies from a wide range of disciplines with simulation-modelling exercises. We envisage a more holistic approach to manage grazing based on recent advances in the understanding of the nutritional ecology of grazing animals, and propose management practices that may enable pastoral livestock-production systems to evolve continually as complex creative systems.