A Northern Territory trial is aiming to encourage cattle to move themselves around a paddock without being mustered by humans.
The Department of Primary Industry (DPI) is trialling a system of self-herding techniques on its Kidman Springs research station, 350 kilometres south-west of Katherine.
Researchers are trying to see if self-herding can be used to encourage a mob of cattle to graze parts of a paddock they wouldn’t normally venture into.
The self-herding system has been developed by New South Wales farmer Bruce Maynard and West Australian agricultural scientist Dr Dean Revell.
Mr Maynard said at its most basic, self-herding was about modifying animal behaviour.
“We can do that in either a positive or negative way,” he said.
“Whenever people are interacting with animals they are having an effect, so it is a positive attitude of taking and using tools to start to get animals to choose what we want them to do, rather than force them to do things we want them to do.”
An increasing number of cattle stations in the largely undeveloped north are installing more watering points and fences to allow cattle to be run more intensively and better utilise pasture that would otherwise not be eaten in a larger paddock.
DPI rangeland program manager Dionne Walsh said the trail aimed to see if self-herding could be used to replicate the benefits of such infrastructure development.
“Self-herding is potentially a technique for people to use without having to put in a lot of expensive infrastructure in order to do things like better pasture utilisation,” she said.