Skip Navigation

The Rangeland Journal Abstracts

The full text of the papers is available to members of The Australian Rangeland Society at

These abstracts are from the latest issue of The Rangeland Journal.

 The Rangeland Journal Vol. 40 (4) - September, 2018

Developing the north: learning from the past to guide future plans and policies

Andrew Ash A C and Ian Watson B

- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Agriculture and Food, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

B CSIRO Agriculture and Food, PMB Aitkenvale, Townsville, Qld, 4814, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 301-314
Submitted: 19 March 2018  Accepted: 4 July 2018   Published: 28 August 2018


The development of northern Australia has been a policy ambition for over a century and the desire to do so continues unabated. Attempts to develop the north, especially for more intensive forms of agriculture are not new. In this paper we explore past agricultural developments, including some that persist today and those that have failed, to determine critical factors in success or failure. This was done with the aim of identifying where most effort should focus in supporting contemporary agricultural developments. Although climatic and environmental constraints, including pests and diseases, remain a challenge for agricultural development in these largely tropical rangelands, it is mainly factors associated with finances and investment planning, land tenure and property rights, management, skills, and supply chains, which provide the critical challenges. In particular, the desire to scale-up too rapidly and the associated failure to invest sufficient time and resources in management to learn how to develop appropriate farming systems that are sustainable and economically viable is a recurrent theme through the case study assessment. Scaling up in a more measured way, with a staged approach to the investment in physical capital, should better allow for the inevitable set-backs and the unexpected costs in developing tropical rangelands for agriculture. There are two notable differences from the historical mandate to develop. First is the acknowledgement that development should not disadvantage Indigenous people, that Indigenous people have strong interests and rights in land and water resources and that these resources will be deployed to further Indigenous economic development. Second, assessing environmental impacts of more intensive development is more rigorous than in the past and the resources and timeframes required for these processes are often underestimated.

Additional keywords: development, economics, intensive agriculture, management.


Emerging opportunities for developing a diversified land sector economy in Australia’s northern savannas

Jeremy Russell-Smith A B C and Kamaljit K. Sangha A B

- Author Affiliations

A Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.

B Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, East Melbourne, Vic., Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 315-330
Submitted: 25 January 2018  Accepted: 12 April 2018   Published: 8 June 2018


We explore sustainable land sector opportunities for Australia’s 1.2 million km2 northern savanna rangelands where extensive beef cattle pastoralism is the predominant contemporary land use. Our focal region is characterised by mean annual rainfall exceeding 600 mm, ecologically bountiful wet season water availability followed by 6–8 months of surface water deficit, mostly nutrient-poor soils, internationally significant biodiversity and carbon stock values, very extensive dry season fires in pastorally unproductive settings, a sparse rural population (0.14 persons km–2) comprising a high proportion of Indigenous people, and associated limited infrastructure. Despite relatively high beef cattle prices in recent seasons and property values escalating at a spectacular ~6% p.a. over the past two decades, long-term economics data show that, for most northern regions, typical pastoral enterprises are unprofitable and carry significant debt. Pastoral activities can also incur very significant environmental impacts on soil and scarce dry season water resources, and greenhouse gas emissions, which currently are not accounted for in economic sustainability assessments. Over the same period, the conservation sector (including National Parks, Indigenous Protected Areas) has been expanding rapidly and now occupies 25% of the region. Since 2012, market-based savanna burning projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions occur over a further 25%. Returns from nature-based tourism focussed particularly on maintaining intact freshwater systems and associated recreational fishing opportunities dwarf returns from pastoralism. The growth of these latter industries illustrates the potential for further development of profitable ‘ecosystem services’ markets as part of a more environmentally and socially sustainable diversified regional land sector economy. We outline some of the imminent challenges involved with, and opportunities for developing, this new industry sector.

Additional keywords: carbon economy, ecosystem services, land use, Northern development, pastoral enterprise, pasture systems.


From conflict to collaboration: can better governance systems facilitate the sustainable development of the northern pastoral industry, communities and landscapes?

Allan P. Dale

- Author Affiliations

The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 331-340
Submitted: 5 February 2018  Accepted: 11 June 2018   Published: 12 July 2018


The past decade has seen several high profile national policy conflicts related to sustainable development beset the northern Australian pastoral industry. Examples include the live cattle export ban, tree clearing legislation in Queensland and significant pastoral sector concerns about exploration and development of coal and gas reserves across the north. Although these are very legitimate cross-societal debates, the high levels of conflict associated with them impact on the willingness of corporate, family and Indigenous farming enterprises in northern Australia to invest in development. They also affect the willingness and capacities of pastoralists to cooperate with governments in various approaches to change management in northern landscapes. In the pursuit of a better pathway that might resolve policy problems while also delivering industry benefit, this paper analyses several high-profile industry and landscape scale conflicts from recent years, teasing out the key features of governance system dysfunction. At the same time, I also look at positive governance developments emerging in related contexts. Drawing on this analysis, I suggest the current system of governance affecting the northern Australian pastoral industry might have much to learn from the application of more evidence rich and engaging systems of co-management. I suggest that moving in this direction, however, would require Australian, state and Northern Territory (NT) governments to genuinely partner the industry, Traditional Owners and other key sectoral interests, leading to long-term vision building, strategy development and delivery partnerships that benefit industry and communities while resolving wider societal concerns.

Additional keywords: land management, pastoral communities, rangeland management, sustainability.


Informing major government programs for rural transport infrastructure in northern Australia

Andrew Higgins A B , Stephen McFallan A , Adam McKeown A , Caroline Bruce A and Chris Chilcott A

- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 2583, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 341-351
Submitted: 31 January 2018  Accepted: 16 July 2018   Published: 14 August 2018


New or expanded agricultural industries in northern Australia require efficient and reliable supply chains and transport to domestic and international markets. A major challenge in the north is long transport distances of over 1000 km between production and markets, along a sparse rural road/rail network that is largely unsealed and disrupted by seasonal flooding. To provide a comprehensive view of transport logistics costs and benefits due to infrastructure investments and regulatory changes in agriculture supply chains, the Australian Government commissioned CSIRO to develop the Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT). TraNSIT optimises transport routes for up to hundreds of thousands of enterprises and millions of vehicle trips between farms and their markets, providing modelled input into operational and investment decisions. As part of a major Australian Government initiative, TraNSIT was used to directly inform the A$100 million 2016 Beef Roads Program targeting transport infrastructure investments across northern Australia. It was used to evaluate the transport savings for 60 road upgrade submissions, where the total construction cost exceeded A$3 billion. This paper highlights the innovations and experiences of using TraNSIT to inform the Beef Roads Program.

Additional keywords: agriculture transport, infrastructure investment, logistics, simulation, supply chain.


Exploring agricultural development and climate adaptation in northern Australia under climatic risks

Supriya Mathew A E , Benxiang Zeng A , Kerstin K. Zander A B and Ranjay K. Singh C D

- Author Affiliations

A Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University, NT 0810, Australia.

B Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Bonn, Germany.

C ICAR-Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal – 132 001, Haryana, India.

D College of Horticulture and Forestry, Central Agriculture University, Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh, India.

E Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 353-364
Submitted: 8 February 2018  Accepted: 17 August 2018   Published: 17 September 2018


The agriculture sector in northern Australia is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and climate variability. Climate change risks for future agricultural development include higher atmospheric temperature, increased rainfall variability and an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heatwaves and fires. An uncertain future climate can affect agricultural production, efficient resource use and sustainable livelihoods. A balance needs to be achieved between resource use and livelihood security for sustainable agricultural development amid stressors such as climate change. This paper examines sustainable agricultural development in northern Australia using the environmental livelihood framework, a new approach that explores the relationships between water, energy and food resources and the livelihoods they sustain. The study shows that developments in the renewable energy sector, water infrastructure sector and advances in research and development for climate resilient infrastructure and climate resilient species are likely to improve agricultural production in northern Australia. Measures to attract and retain agricultural workforce is also key to maintaining a sustainable agricultural workforce in northern Australia. Adequate monitoring and evaluation of agricultural investments is important as future climatic impacts remain uncertain.

Additional keywords: agriculture, climate change, livelihood, security, sustainability.


Settling for dams?: planning for sustainable Indigenous livelihoods within large-scale irrigated agricultural development in north Queensland, Australia

Marcus Barber

- Author Affiliations

CSIRO, Ecosystem Sciences, Australia. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 365-379
Submitted: 12 February 2018  Accepted: 16 July 2018   Published: 17 August 2018


Large-scale irrigated production of food, fuel and fibre has received new impetus from rising population and consumption levels and from structural changes in agribusiness, notably financialisation and vertical and horizontal consolidation. In Australia, these trends have provided new justifications for pre-existing economic and nationalist aspirations for water and irrigated agricultural development in the pastoral-dominated tropical north. Indigenous Australians have the longest history of past attachment to northern land and waterscapes, the highest degree of current socioeconomic marginalisation, and the strongest focus on the intergenerational equity and sustainability of development. This qualitative study undertaken with senior Indigenous custodians in two North Queensland catchments identified that major irrigation development posed significant risks, but may also contribute to diversified local Indigenous livelihoods. In particular, well structured development may enable the employment-related resettlement of depopulated traditional lands in the upper catchments, inverting the more commonly reported relationship between dam development and local residence. Yet the catchment-scale impacts from such development means that any complementarity between local Indigenous and developer aspirations in the immediate development zone does not necessarily entail complementarity with downstream Indigenous livelihood needs and aspirations. Regional coordination of Indigenous livelihood plans is required to establish effective baselines for negotiating sustainable development outcomes.

Additional keywords: Aboriginal, catchment management, cultural heritage, Indigenous rights, native title, sustainable development goals, water.


An exploratory analysis of the scope for dispersed small-scale irrigation developments to enhance the productivity of northern beef cattle enterprises

N. D. MacLeod A D , D. E. Mayberry A , C. Revell B , L. W. Bell C and D. B. Prestwidge A

- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Agriculture and Food, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

B Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth, WA 6151, Australia.

C CSIRO Food and Agriculture, 203 Tor Street, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 381-399
Submitted: 06 March 2018  Accepted: 16 July 2018   Published: 22 August 2018


The major economic use of the northern Australian rangelands is beef cattle grazing. Beef production enterprises are typically large and employ ‘low-input’ herd and pasture management systems, and the longer-term viability and sustainability of many is uncertain. Productivity gains have been stagnant for most of the past decade, and nutritional constraints are a major source of the poor animal production and financial returns across the sector. There has been a growing interest in the scope for small-scale, dispersed irrigation developments – mosaic irrigation – to provide an augmented supply of higher-quality forages to certain classes of animals in order to alter their reproduction and/or growth potential and to exploit market opportunities. An ex-ante economic review undertaken by the CSIRO of the prospects for mosaic irrigation employed bioeconomic simulation modelling of case studies of irrigation development scenarios conducted at the individual beef enterprise scale in three contrasting regions of northern Australia – the Burdekin (north Queensland), the Barkly Tableland (Northern Territory) and the Kimberley (northern Western Australia). This paper presents a summary of the methods, results and conclusions of the case study modelling. The results present a mixed picture of the economic potential for the various irrigation development options that were canvassed. The level of animal productivity (e.g. average weight of sale animals) increased for all of the irrigation simulation scenarios, but in most instances the projected economic advantage ranged from negative to only moderately positive across the three regional case studies. Where there was an apparently attractive return on the irrigation investment (e.g. a real internal rate of return of >15%), this primarily occurred under the more buoyant market conditions that have prevailed in recent years. The influence of irrigated forage availability on herd structure through management options such as the early weaning of calves appears to be at least as valuable as changes in liveweight gain for particular classes of animals.

Additional keywords: mosaic irrigation, north Australia, simulation modelling, economics.


Plans are useless, but planning is essential

John Brisbin

- Author Affiliations

Northern Gulf Resource Management Group, POB 65 Georgetown, Qld 4871, Australia. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 401-414
Submitted: 18 April 2018  Accepted: 8 August 2018   Published: 31 August 2018


Development over the next decade in northern Australia will proceed along the unpredictable intersection of two complex adaptive systems: the anthropic (social, economic) and the bio-physical/geophysical. These two domains are tightly linked and profoundly indeterminate. If we are to improve our capacity to nudge the future towards consensual outcomes, we will need tools suited for that purpose, and a culture pattern that embraces the baked-in complexity of our human and non-human environments.

Planning is a process-focussed form of social ritual and narrative construction that is especially suited to the challenges and opportunities of the north. The prevalent narratives that define our relationship with the land are both insufficient for enduring prosperity and captive to narrow ideologies. Development will happen on, around, and through the small communities and sparse landscapes of the north. This region is highly sensitive to the presence or absence of cooperation networks and is exposed, for better and worse, to powerful external forces.

This paper argues for a new posture, a re-freshed commitment to the processes of civil society in order to find the best ways forward in the north. A revival of planning culture promises to expand the capacity for resilience at the scale of community, local economy, and watershed.

Australia’s Regional Natural Resource Management network is presented as an appropriate structure in which the specific processes of planning can be effectively realised. I will show that Regional Natural Resource Management Plans are evidence of a remarkable social process that opens new understandings of ourselves and the land we are part of. A collection of guiding queries, the Seven Signs of Planning, is proposed as a method for consistently evaluating the depth and quality of planning processes.

Regional Natural Resource Management and its technology of planning can provide a foundation on which to build a culture of profitable and consensual development in north Australia.

Additional keywords: consensual decision-making, inter-subjective reality, natural resource management, northern development, Regional Natural Resource Management Plans.


Are Indigenous land and sea management programs a pathway to Indigenous economic independence?

Diane Jarvis A B G , Natalie Stoeckl C , Jane Addison A B , Silva Larson C , Rosemary Hill D E , Petina Pert E and Felecia Watkin Lui F

- Author Affiliations

A James Cook University, College of Business, Law and Governance, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

B CSIRO Land and Water, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

C James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

D CSIRO Land and Water, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia.

E CSIRO Land and Water, Pullenvale, Qld 4069, Australia.

F James Cook University, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia.

G Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 415-429
Submitted: 30 April 2018  Accepted: 16 August 2018   Published: 27 August 2018

Journal compilation © Australian Rangeland Society 2018 Open Access CC BY-NC-ND


This paper focuses on Indigenous business development, an under-researched co-benefit associated with investment in Indigenous land and sea management programs (ILSMPs) in northern Australia. More than 65% of ILSMPs undertake commercial activities that generate revenue and create jobs. In addition to generating environmental benefits, ILSMPs thus also generate economic benefits (co-benefits) that support Indigenous aspirations and help to deliver multiple government objectives. We outline key features of northern Australian economies, identifying factors that differentiate them from Western urbanised economies. We discuss literature highlighting that, if the aim is to stimulate (short-term) economic development in northern Indigenous economies, then the requirement is to stimulate demand for goods and services that are produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (herein referred to as Indigenous people), and which generate benefits that align with the goals and aspirations of Indigenous people. We also discuss literature demonstrating the importance of promoting a socio-cultural environment that stimulates creativity, which is a core driver of innovation, business development and long-term development.

ILSMPs have characteristics suggestive of an ability to kick-start self-sustaining growth cycles, but previous research has not investigated this. Using 8 years of data relating to Indigenous businesses that are registered with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (a subset of all Indigenous businesses), we use statistical tests (Granger causality tests) to check whether ILSMP expenditure in the first year has a positive impact on Indigenous business activity in subsequent years. This analysis (of admittedly imperfect data) produces evidence to support the proposition that expenditure on ILSMPs generates positive spillovers for Indigenous businesses (even those not engaged in land management), albeit with a 3-year lag. ILSMPs have been shown to be an appropriate mechanism for achieving a wide range of short-term benefits; our research suggests they may also work as catalysts for Indigenous business development, fostering sustainable economic independence.

Additional keywords: Closing the gap, Economic development, Indigenous advancement, Indigenous business development, Indigenous land and sea management, Self-sustaining economic growth.


Rapid assessment of potential for development of large dams and irrigation across continental areas: application to northern Australia

C. Petheram A C , J. Gallant A , P. Stone A B , P. Wilson A and A. Read A

- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Current address: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(4) 431-449
Submitted: 9 February 2018  Accepted: 30 August 2018   Published: 20 September 2018

Journal compilation © Australian Rangeland Society 2018 Open Access CC BY-NC-ND


Water scarcity in southern Australia and an imperative to develop regional economies have combined to renew focus on the potential for irrigated agricultural development in Australia’s largely undeveloped and sparsely populated north. More than 2 billion potential dam sites across northern Australia (an area of ~3 million km2) were assessed in a consistent and objective manner, using the DamSite model, in the largest comprehensive assessment of large dams undertaken globally. Simultaneous consideration was given to large dams and their proximity to land physically suited to the development of irrigated cropping and horticulture. We did not consider regulatory and land-ownership limitations on irrigation and dam development or social, environmental and economic considerations. Although these factors do and will constrain water and agricultural development in northern Australia, each requires a site-specific analysis, and these factors can potentially change with time.

Physical resources (soil, surface water, and topography suitable for large, in-stream dams) sufficient to support ~1.84 Mha of irrigated agriculture exist in northern Australia. This would require use of the entire yield from eight existing dams (including the Burdekin Falls and Ord River dams) and the construction of 117 new dams. A more financially attractive option could involve using water from 85 large dams (eight existing and 77 new dams) and a large number of reregulating structures (e.g. weirs) to irrigate 1.34 Mha of land suitable for irrigated agriculture. If realised, this would result in a ~50% increase in Australia’s area under irrigation. Approximately 50% of the potential 1.34 Mha of irrigated land in northern Australia (~670 000 ha) could be irrigated with ~20 of the more promising large dams, highlighting the declining marginal returns to dam construction and the benefits of strategic land and water resource planning. In reality, a range of regulatory, political and socio-economic factors will considerably constrain the upper physical limit to dam and irrigation development stated in this paper. They may also inevitably result in major developments occurring over longer timeframes than dam and irrigation developments of comparable scale in southern Australia during the 20th Century.

Alternative sources of water (e.g. groundwater, wetlands, waterholes) and water storage (e.g. gully dams, ringtanks, managed aquifer recharge) are physically capable of supplying smaller volumes of water than large dams, although each may have important roles to play in maximising the cost-effectiveness of water supply in northern Australia.

Additional keywords: hydrology, water storage.


The Rangeland Journal - Vol 40 (3)  May 2018

Feeding flocks on rangelands: insights into the local ecological knowledge of shepherds in Boulemane province (Morocco)

N.-E. Gobindram A , A. Boughalmi B , C. H. Moulin A , M. Meuret A , D. Bastianelli A , A. Araba B and M. Jouven A C

A SELMET, Univ. Montpellier, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro, CIRAD, 34000 Montpellier, France.

B IAV Hassan II, Rabat, Morocco.

C Corresponding author. Email:;

The Rangeland Journal 40(3) 207-218
Submitted: 4 February 2017  Accepted: 26 April 2018   Published: 8 June 2018


In Mediterranean regions, traditional pastoral systems involve shepherds leading flocks along daily grazing circuits on arid rangelands. Over the past decades, these systems have become increasingly agro-pastoral and the importance given to feeding flocks on rangelands is variable. Our study aimed at investigating the local ecological knowledge (LEK) about forage plants and animal foraging behaviour of shepherds in a pastoral area of Morocco, and eventually analysing the possible interactions between such LEK, its utilisation for grazing management and the pastoral status of the farm. Eleven semi-directive interviews with shepherds, either salaried or owning their own farm, were carried out at three sites differing in terms of agricultural context and available forage resources. Shepherds’ LEK included recognising and naming forage plants and rangeland types, identifying preferred or less preferred plants or plant parts, describing circumstantial palatability of plants depending mainly on season, other locally available plants and watering times. LEK about animal feeding preferences and its integration into grazing management was more extensive at sites where pastoral systems were still most valued, and for shepherds who were either experienced or who were considering the activity in the future. Conversely, young salaried shepherds or farmer-shepherds who devoted more attention to the agricultural component of their system seemed to be less knowledgeable about the subject. In a context where pastoralism is challenged both by the higher profitability of agriculture and by the depletion of pastoral resources as a result of frequent droughts and decreased surface area devoted to grazing lands, the future of such LEK is uncertain. The perpetuation of LEK might depend on the ability of local extension services to value farmers’ LEK and to help them enrich it with scientific knowledge.

Additional keywords: grazing management, indigenous knowledge, pastoral industry, rangeland pasture.


Does the ecological quality of inherited campsites cause persistent inequalities and poverty in pastoral Mongolia?

F. Joly A B F , G. Lefebvre C , A. Sandoz C D and B. Hubert E

A Association pour le cheval de Przewalski: TAKH, Tour du Valat, Le Sambuc, 13200 Arles, France.

B ABIES/AgroParisTech, 19 Avenue du Maine, 75732 Paris Cedex 15, France.

C Institut de recherche pour la conservation des zones humides méditerranéennes de la Tour du Valat, Le Sambuc, 13200 Arles, France.

D UFR Sciences, Université d’Aix Marseille, 3 place Victor Hugo, Marseille Cedex 3, 13331, France.

E INRA, Unité d’Ecodéveloppement, Site Agroparc, 84914 Avignon, France.

F Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(3) 219-230
Submitted: 27 May 2017  Accepted: 23 April 2018   Published: 23 May 2018


Most socioeconomic surveys carried out in Mongolia since the regime change of the 1990s report persistent inequalities and poverty in pastoral communities. To understand the reasons for this phenomenon, we studied the relationships between livestock numbers and ecological characteristics of herders’ seasonal campsites in a community of the Mongolian Gobi. We classified herders with help of a regression tree into three categories, where herd size is correlated with the proportion of the Stipa glareosa and Psammochloa villosa grasses around campsites. We established in addition from livestock-based income estimations that poverty could affect the small herd category, owning on average less than 180 heads of livestock. We finally observed that herders mostly transmit their campsites to their descendants, particularly in the small herd category. Herders are hence durably associated with campsites whose quality is related to livestock numbers, which may be a factor of inequality and poverty persistence. To further understand these processes, the zootechnical influence of S. glareosa and P. villosa should be investigated, as well as historical and anthropological determinants of campsites repartition.

Additional keywords: forage quality, herder typology, income, land use policy, regression tree, remote sensing.


Land rental, prices and the management of China’s grasslands: the case of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region

Qiao Guanghua A , Zhang Bao A , Zhang Jing B and Colin Brown B C

A College of Economics and Management, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China.

B School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(3) 231-240
Submitted: 20 October 2017  Accepted: 1 March 2018   Published: 5 April 2018


Heterogeneity among China’s pastoral households raises the prospect that efficient transfer of grassland-use rights may improve grassland management. More understanding of grassland rental is needed if policy incentives on grassland management are to be refined. Based on a survey of 252 herders in the typical steppe, desert steppe and sandy grassland areas of Inner Mongolia, a significant part of China’s overall grasslands, a multinomial logit model was used to explore factors influencing the decision to: (i) rent in grassland, (ii) rent out grassland, or (iii) neither rent in nor rent out grassland. A multiple regression model then investigated the factors influencing the price of this rented grassland, including a focus on the factors of the exchange. The findings suggest that rental has facilitated a level of specialisation whereby households with less own-grassland area, more livestock, more intensive production systems, lower perceptions of degradation, and some off-farm income (but not high levels) being more likely to rent in land. The likelihood was independent of the type of grassland, extent of grazing bans or grassland subsidies received. Similarly, households more likely to rent out land had fewer livestock and some land subject to grazing bans. The specialisation and larger land areas has enabled households renting in land to have lower stocking rates than those of households not renting grassland. However, analysis of rental prices reveals limitations in the rental market, with prices dependent on the form of contract and relationship of the participants in the exchange, as well as on area rented and type of grassland. Thus, improving land transfer may be warranted to facilitate further specialisation and improved grazing management and herder livelihoods.

Additional keywords: grassland condition, grassland incentives, grazing pressure, pastoral household specialisation.


How can sedentarised pastoralists be more technically efficient? A case from eastern Inner Mongolia

Shuhao Tan A C , Tingyu Li A , Bo Liu A and Lynn Huntsinger B

A School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Renmin University of China, Zhongguancun Street 59, Haidian District, 100872 Beijing, P.R. China.

B Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3110, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(3) 241-249
Submitted: 22 May 2017  Accepted: 19 March 2018   Published: 1 May 2018


Technical efficiency (TE) means the effectiveness of production outputs attained for a given level of production inputs. This study examines pastoralist TE and its determinants for 416 pastoralist households from two leagues (prefectures) in eastern Inner Mongolia, a typical rangeland area in China. A one-step stochastic frontier method is applied to analyse data about household livestock production in 2011 to assess opportunities for increasing income and reducing poverty through increased TE. The main results show that pastoralists, in general, did not perform well with currently available technology, with the average TE score just 0.50 out of 1.0. Only about one-fifth (20.2%) of respondents had TE scores >0.7, and the same proportion had a TE score

Additional keywords: livestock production, rangeland degradation, rangeland rental market, stochastic frontier method.


Geospatial analyses of local economic structures in the rangeland areas of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia

Boyd D. Blackwell A D , Brian E. Dollery B , Andrew M. Fischer C and Jim A. Mcfarlane A

A CRC for Remote Economic Participation, UNE Business School, EBL Building, Trevenna Road, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B UNE Centre for Local Government, EBL Building, Trevenna Road, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

C Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Science Building, Old School Road, University of Tasmania, Newnham, Tas. 7248, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(3) 251-262
Submitted: 16 June 2017  Accepted: 10 April 2018   Published: 14 May 2018


We examine the economic structure of Australian local government areas in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia using economic base theory and location quotients. Whereas the economic base approach is long established, in this paper we extend the three-staged geospatial visualisation method of Blackwell et al. (2017) to two additional state jurisdictions. Focusing on the economic structure of rangeland local government areas, we find that these vary significantly, implying that no single generic development policy is likely to be effective, but rather these need to be crafted individually. We demonstrate that geospatial visualisations of employment location quotients can identify local economic vulnerability as well as opportunity.

Additional keywords: geospatial visualisation, regional development, remote Australia, rural Australia.


Effect of weaning strategy on performance, behaviour and blood parameters of yak calves (Poephagus grunniens)

Peipei Liu A B , Shujie Liu C , Allan Degen D , Qiang Qiu A , Quanmin Dong C , Xiaoping Jing A , Jiaojiao Zhang A , Qi Yan A , Wenming Zheng E and Luming Ding A F

A State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-Ecosystem, Institute of Arid Agroecology, School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 73000, China.

B Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China.

C National Key Laboratory of Cultivating Base of Plateau Grazing Animal Nutrition and Ecology of Qinghai Province, Qinghai Academy of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Xining 810016, China.

D Desert Animal Adaptations and Husbandry, Wyler Department of Dryland Agriculture, Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of Negev, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel.

E Haibei Demonstration Zone of Plateau Modern Ecological Animal Husbandry Science and Technology, Haibei 812200, China.

F Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(3) 263-270
Submitted: 7 November 2018  Accepted: 9 April 2018   Published: 15 May 2018


Early weaning can improve the body condition and reproductive performance of cows, but can be very stressful to both the calf and cow. The objectives of this study were to examine and compare the performance, behaviour and blood parameters of yak calves that were weaned using different methods. Twenty-six calves (94.3 ± 2.4 days old) were assigned to four weaning treatments: (1) weaned naturally following ad libitum sucking (NW, n = 13); (2) weaned abruptly and separated permanently from their mothers (AW, n = 5); (3) separated temporarily from their mothers for 15 days and then reunited (TW, n = 5); and (4) fitted with nose plates to prevent sucking for 15 days but allowed free access to their mothers (NP, n = 3). Girth size, as a measure of calf performance, was largest in NW and AW calves, intermediate in NP calves and smallest in TW calves. This indicated that the AW calves were able to consume adequate energy to compensate for the absence of milk. The weaned calves (TW and NP) spent more time grazing and, in general, played less than NW calves. In addition, TW calves stood more but walked less, whereas NP calves lay more but grazed and stood less than NW calves. Blood insulin was lower on Day 19 in the TW calves than in the other three treatments. We concluded that abrupt and permanent weaning was an appropriate strategy for yak calves on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.

Additional keywords: early weaning, grazing management, Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, stress response.


Vegetation responses to fire history and soil properties in grazed semi-arid tropical savanna

Gabrielle Lebbink A D , Rod Fensham A B and Robyn Cowley C

A School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

B Queensland Herbarium, Department of Environment and Resource Management, Toowong, Qld 4066, Australia.

C Department of Primary Industries and Resources, GPO Box 3000, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(3) 271-285
Submitted: 18 July 2017  Accepted: 25 January 2018   Published: 5 June 2018


A long-term (1993–2016) fire experiment in the grazed semi-arid savanna of the Northern Territory was used to investigate the relative impacts of soil properties and fire history on vegetation composition and diversity in grassland and woodland habitats. Subtle variation in soil texture influenced vegetation composition and abundance independently of fire variables and was generally a more important control on floristic patterns. Total species richness, lifeform richness and the abundance and presence of many individual plant species declined with increasing clay content. Linear mixed effect models with combined habitat data, showed total richness and richness of annual and perennial forbs, annual grasses and legumes increased with more frequent fire. Perennial grass abundance and richness was not influenced by fire. Total and lifeform mean richness did not vary between two and four yearly or early and late burnt treatments. Richness and abundance was generally significantly higher on burnt blocks than unburnt blocks regardless of fire season or interval. These results suggest greater diversity after burning is a result of an increase in ephemeral species. However, the overall influence of fire on floristic patterns is relatively moderate and fire regimes may therefore be manipulated for other management imperatives, such as fauna conservation, carbon sequestration and pastoral productivity without substantial impacts on botanical values in semi-arid tropical savannas.

Additional keywords: clay, competition, fire interval, fire season, germination, grazing.


Impact of seedling age on the survival and productivity of Atriplex halimus shrubs in drought-affected rangelands of Jordan

Yahya Al-Satari A E , Ezz Al-Dein Al-Ramamneh B , Jamal Ayad C , Mohamad Abu Dalbouh D , Ibrahim Amayreh D and Zein Khreisat A

A Rangeland and Forestry Research Directorate, National Centre for Agricultural Research and Extension, Al-Baqah 19381, Jordan.

B Department of Agricultural Sciences, Al-Shouback University College, Al-Balqa Applied University, Maan, Jordan.

C Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, School of Agriculture, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan.

D Water and Ecology Research Directorate, National Centre for Agricultural Research and Extension, Al-Baqah 19381, Jordan.

E Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 40(3) 287-296
Submitted: 5 October 2017  Accepted: 29 May 2018   Published: 22 June 2018


Rangelands in Jordan are part of arid areas of the Mediterranean Basin. Stress-tolerant plants such as Atriplex halimus L. have been used to rehabilitate such degraded areas. Seeds of A. halimus were sown in plastic bags in mid-March, mid-August and mid-September of 2012 and placed on the ground in a nursery at Khaldiah Station. Seedlings that were 4, 5 and 10 months old were transplanted on 20 January 2013 to the Khanasri Range Reserve and monitored for their survival over the growing seasons of 2013, 2014 and 2015. At the time of transplanting, the height, weight, stem thickness and root length density of 10-month-old seedlings were greater than of 4- and 5-month-old seedlings. Analyses of leaf tissues indicated high crude protein content in seedlings of different ages (22−26%). The 10-month-old plants showed 15–40-fold higher stem dry weight and more convoluted roots than the 4- and 5-month-old seedlings. The average rate of survival of transplanted seedlings over the three growing seasons was 77.0%, 92.3% and 94.3% for 10-, 5- and 4-month-old seedlings, respectively. Thus, higher growth of the 10-month-old seedlings than of 4- and 5-month-old seedlings at transplanting was compromised by their lower survival percentage throughout the 2013, 2014 and 2015 growing seasons. The dry yield of fodder shrubs was comparable across different-aged seedlings after 2 years of growth in permanent pastures (380, 364 and 354 kg dry yield ha–1 for 10-, 5- and 4-month-old seedlings, respectively). Taken together, these data suggest that 4–5-month-old seedlings of A. halimus are more appropriate for transplanting than 10-month-old seedlings because of cost-effective establishment of seedlings in the nursery, because no significant differences in shrub productivity were observed among plants derived from seedlings of different ages in the permanent rangeland. The impact of the introduced shrubs on different native plants in the range can be addressed in future studies.

Additional keywords: allowable yield, browse weight, canopy, rangeland rehabilitation, root system.



Call of the Reed Warbler. A New Agriculture, A New Earth 

By Charles Massy

University of Queensland Press, 2017, 569 pp.

ISBN: 9780702253416

Reviewed by Jen Silcock