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, are passed in their manure, carried by the wind or transported by running water. In addition to removing stock, we also focus on weed control.
Our job at Bush Heritage Australia is to return the bush to good health – and that sometimes means making very difficult decisions about managing one species to protect hundreds of others.
When the circumstances arise, managing one species of overabundant native wildlife is a difficult but necessary decision when we consider the bigger picture. Sometimes that means reducing numbers to more appropriate levels.
The science we use, and the guidelines implemented, were carefully developed in consultation with a group of independent experts. Our approach is endorsed by leaders in this field from University of Melbourne and Australian National University, and we use humane methods that have been developed in consultation with the RSPCA.
At Bush Heritage, it’s about getting the balance right so we deliver on our promise – healthy country, protected forever.
How the land responds
On many properties removing grazing stock is probably the most important action we've taken to restore the health of the landscape.
Maintaining boundary fences with neighbouring pastoral properties is also crucial to maintaining low grazing pressure.
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.