Feral goats photographed on Eurardy Reserve (WA) by Paul and Leanne Hales in 2005.
Cattle, sheep and other grazing animals such as feral camels, goats and rabbits compete with native animals for food by eating and damaging native vegetation. Heavy grazing can completely eliminate certain species of plants, which in turn affects native species that depend on these plants for food or shelter.
Heavy grazing also prevents grasses from setting seed, denying many small rodents, birds and insects this key food source. Annual grasses can fail to regenerate.
The hard hooves of cattle, sheep and goats also damage the surface of the soil. This leads to soil compaction, destroys the complex ecology of the soil surface and often initiates soil erosion.
Weeds frequently arrive with grazing stock. If the weeds establish, they can spread to new areas when their seeds attach to animals or are passed in their manure, are carried by the wind and are transported by running water.
How the land responds
The intense colours of the grasslands on Carnarvon Reserve (Qld). Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.
On many properties, removing grazing stock is probably the most important action that we take in order to restore the health of the habitats and populations of animals.
For example, at the time it was purchased, Carnarvon Station Reserve in Queensland had degraded native bluegrass downs on which few native animals survived.
Following the removal of stock, the native grasslands have flourished, further assisted by our control of weeds and use of fire. Now these threatened habitats are supporting insects, reptiles, increasing numbers of native mammals, seed-eating birds such as the plum-headed finch, the turquoise parrot, and birds of prey.