Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The northern Australian beef industry, a snapshot. 1. Regional enterprise activity and structure

G. Bortolussi A D E , J. G. McIvor B , J. J. Hodgkinson B , S. G. Coffey C and C. R. Holmes A

A CSIRO Livestock Industries, PO Box 5545, Rockhampton MC, Qld 4702, Australia.

B CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

C CSIRO Livestock Industries, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

D Present address: NRM Programs & Operations Group, NRM Support Division, Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation, GPO Box 2834, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: greg.bortolussi@bigpond.com

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 45(9) 1057-1073 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/EA03096
Submitted: 6 November 2003  Accepted: 14 May 2004   Published: 10 October 2005

Abstract

During 1996 and 1997, a survey examined the business activities of 375 selected northern Australian beef producers during the 1991 and 1992 to 1995 and 1996 financial years. The producers represented a broad cross-section of the northern beef industry in terms of geographical location, size of enterprise and herd, and ownership structures. The survey examined the enterprise structures and herd productivity of the participating properties. A diverse range of production activities were carried out with breeding and finishing, of which breeding stores and live cattle export being the most common activities. About 50% of the survey properties were run in conjunction with another property, both of which tended to be located in the same survey region. The additional properties served various purposes, depending on their location. There was evidence of specialist roles for the additional properties.

The purchase of store cattle tended to be an opportunistic activity with younger cattle (<2 years old) being most preferred. Survey properties tended to target a range of markets; Northern Territory and northern Western Australian properties being the most likely to target a single market (live export). Aspiring to supply the slaughter markets was of greatest interest to Queensland beef producers. Aspiring to supply the USA manufacturing beef market was lowest where interest in live export was greatest. During the survey period, the USA manufacturing beef market, store and live cattle export markets were important outlets for cattle.

Many herd and pasture-related improvements were planned to boost profitability in the 5 years post-survey (1997–2002). Increasing turn-off weight and branding rate, and decreasing turn-off age were of greatest interest to surveyed beef producers. Pasture improvement and improving pasture management also rated highly.

The survey data indicated that the female genotype of the northern Australian herd had changed significantly over a 10- and 30-year period, with Bos indicus, Bos indicus cross and Taurindicus breeds being the most commonly reported breeds. The bull breeds present in regional herds suggest crossbreeding is occurring in conjunction with pure breeding. Most herds had more than 1 bull and female breed. Regional patterns were also found to exist for female and bull breeds with Bos indicus being common in herds in the northern parts of the survey area and Taurindicus breeds popular in southern herds.

The results of this survey are discussed in relation to future developments in the northern Australian beef industry.


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