Containment Feeding

Landscape resilience during drought

Containment Feeding

Landscape resilience during drought

Capacity to Deliver -


The issue

Throughout 2017 -19, farmers in the Little River catchment experienced hard winters followed by high temperatures and low rainfall during summer and autumn; common characteristics of drought. Managing plant, soil and animal health simultaneously is mentally and economically challenging for farmers during dry times. It requires multiple economic and environmental operational changes. Like all droughts, the highly variable climatic conditions had negative effects on farming systems e.g. vegetation diminished, reducing feed availability for livestock and healthy soil structure essential for water retention. Farmers were tasked with balancing pasture health and animal health to sustain profitability under the extreme conditions.

The solution

To enhance landscape resilience across the catchment, Little River Landcare, with funding support from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, put together a series of case studies reviewing grazing practices undertaken by landholders throughout 2018. The case studies aimed to increase knowledge and awareness of sustainable grazing and detailed the pro's and con's of local applications of containment feeding. Infrastructure type, feeding regime, problems and benefits were compared to gain an insight into containment feeding as a suitable practice to sustain farming businesses throughout drought.  

The impact

Containment feeding is a drought feeding practice that aims to promote animal health and welfare while preserving ground cover and land condition. It involves confining stock to a small area where they are fed a total ration. The removal of stock from land helps reduce plant and soil disturbance, lowering the risk of soil compaction and erosion. Such an approach allows plants to enter dormancy without excessive coagulation of particles (soil compaction), resulting in greater air and water filtration and quicker pasture regrowth when rainfall returns.

Although, each landholder installed different infrastructure, managed different livestock, had different stocking numbers and commenced containment feeding at different stages throughout the drought, their motivation to confine stock was the same. Each landholder expressed an interest in “conserving as much pasture as possible”. When ground cover across the catchment was compared six months after the drought ceased, satellite imagery of the properties involved showed higher paddock pasture biomass than other land parcels in the area. Such results suggest quicker revegetation rates across participants' paddocks, further supporting containment feeding as a viable management option during drought.

Key facts

  • Impacts to agriculture during drought
  • Sustainable grazing management practices
  • Increase in landscape resilience
  • Containment feeding options

Project Partners