Sustainable use of pastoral land


Ratification Date: 15 Oct 2010


Pastoralists have primary responsibility for the care of pastoral land and should develop sustainable agricultural practices which should be monitored and supported by the community.

Veterinarians are well placed to foster a better understanding of how livestock health, wellbeing and productivity impact on pastoral land. Where possible they should work with pastoralists, the community and other advisers in the area to improve sustainable use of pastoral land.


Livestock management practices can cause significant changes in plant and animal communities. Small changes in pastoral practices can have a major beneficial effect if they occur at critical times. Other changes can have a detrimental effect on the natural environment when the ecological system is in an unstable state. Some of these changes may be irreversible in the short term.

Changes in pastoral areas include an increase in unpalatable, poor quality or poisonous plants, an increase in native grass species that can injure stock and the invasion of rangelands by woody weeds. Not all of this has been caused by the pastoralist. The European rabbit and many other introduced species have also contributed significantly to the degradation of the pastoral environment.

Better understanding of ecological processes in pastoral areas is required, including the complex relationship between the environment, animals and people. The concept of working with rather than exploiting nature must be encouraged.

Risk management of pastoral lands must take account of the long-term effects of livestock on the land. Starvation of stock and land degradation in dry times, droughts and economic downturns must be avoided. Heavy grazing pressures for extended periods should also be avoided.

Sustainable stocking rates require efficiency of production. Wastage in conversion of pasture to food and fibre product through mortalities, ill-health, ill-thrift and poor reproductive performance should be minimised.

Sustainable land use requires flexibility in stock management and selection of appropriate stocking rates. It also will recognise that pastoralism is only one of the uses of pastoral and neighbouring lands and that other community, government and indigenous users have a role to play in ensuring sustainable use of pastoral lands.

Introduced pest species, such as feral rabbits, goats, horses, donkeys and camels, must be controlled to prevent the destruction of habitat and to encourage regeneration of vegetation.

Predators of livestock and native fauna should be controlled and eradicated where possible. Feral pigs, cats, dogs and foxes should be controlled to protect native fauna.

Conservation of native flora and fauna must be an integral part of a sustainable land use program in pastoral areas.

Other relevant policies and position statements

Drought and drought management

Date of ratification by AVA Board 15 October 2010