A cattle herd in Australia is expected grow to about 1.5 million by the end of the century, with the biggest increase occurring in Western Australia.
Key points:The average Australian cattle has increased by more than 10,000 per cent in the past 50 yearsA study has found the average Australian grazed 2.7 million acres of land in the last 10 yearsSource:The ConversationWhat does the study tell us about the future?
Researchers from the Australian Agricultural Sciences and Technology Organisation (ASATO) and University of NSW have compiled a comprehensive database of the land used by graziers across the country.
It has revealed the average area grazed by a typical Australian cow in the years before and after the federal government introduced a national grazing policy in 1994 was about 2.3 million acres.
In addition, the average number of cattle on the herd is increasing by more of 5.5 per cent per year.
While the average cow on average grazed more than 2.5m acres in those years, the amount of land grazed in the current years has grown by more by just over 20 per cent.
The authors believe the trend will continue and it could be the case that the number of cows on a pasture in 2030 could reach 2.8 million.
What’s behind the rise?
According to the ASATO and University, the number is largely down to a combination of factors.
“There is a clear correlation between population growth and the growth in the total number of animals on the pasture,” said Dr Mark Crouch, from the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Sciences.
“The more cattle you have on the land, the more land you have to manage.”
Dr Crouch said that in recent decades the increase in cattle numbers on the continent has been much higher than that seen in Australia.
“We’re seeing a more recent phenomenon with cattle on Australia’s plains,” he said.
“And the Australian grasslands are now a bit less pasture land than in past decades.”
It’s a bit of a mix of factors but there’s definitely an increase in the number, so it’s a combination.
“More than 1.7m cattle are being moved on Australia to feed the country, so we’re seeing an increase and that’s good for the cattle.”
In terms of the impact on pasture land, Dr Crouch told the ABC there had been a decrease in the amount used in pasture management.
“I think it’s been driven by improved management practices,” he explained.
“You have less grazing in some areas and a more grazing in others.”
But we’re looking at that and we’ve got a bit more to go before we can say we’ve made a dent in the problem.
“But the ASIO and the University believe it will not be long before the average cattle on a herd in 2030 will be in excess of 3 million.”
This is about the average amount of cattle being grazed on the average land,” Dr Croucher said.
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