Field metabolic rate and water turnover of red kangaroos and sheep in an arid rangeland: an empirically derived dry-sheep-equivalent for kangaroos
Sustainable management of pastures requires detailed knowledge of total grazing pressure, but this information is critically lacking in Australia's rangelands where livestock co-occur with large herbivorous marsupials. We present the first comparative measure of the field metabolic rate (an index of food requirement) of Australia's largest marsupial, the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus), with that of domestic sheep (Ovis aries; merino breed). We tested the assumption that the grazing pressure of red kangaroos is equivalent to 0.7 sheep, and show this to be a two-fold overestimation of their contribution to total grazing. Moreover, kangaroos had extraordinarily lower rates of water turnover, being only 13% that of sheep. Consequently, our data support arguments that the removal of kangaroos may not markedly improve rangeland capacity for domestic stock. Furthermore, given the low resource requirements of kangaroos, their use in consumptive and non-consumptive enterprises can provide additional benefits for Australia's rangelands than may occur under traditional rangeland practices.