The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management

The agistment market in the northern Australian rangelands: failings and opportunities

A. F. Reeson A E , R. R. J. McAllister B , S. M. Whitten A , I. J. Gordon C , M. Nicholas C and S. S. McDouall D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

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

C CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB PO, Aitkenvale, Qld 4814, Australia.

D Elders International Australia Limited, Level 14/160 Queen Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 30(3) 283-289
Submitted: 13 November 2006  Accepted: 8 February 2008   Published: 21 August 2008


Agistment is the practice of temporarily moving stock between properties, and is used by pastoralists both to strategically develop their enterprises and as a response to environmental heterogeneities such as variation in rainfall. This paper considers the agistment market in the northern Australian rangelands using the ‘market failure framework’. This form of economic analysis identifies failings in a market, thus, provides a rigorous basis for designing interventions intended to improve market performance. Drawing on interviews with pastoralists from the Dalrymple Shire in Queensland we conclude that, although agistment is widely used, there are several failings in the existing market which are likely to result in overall agistment activity being far less than optimal. The market failure analysis indicates that key issues relate to the lack of a common marketplace, asymmetric information on the characteristics of the other party in an agreement, and a lack of mutual expectations at the outset. Innovations with the potential to overcome these failings, while minimising the transaction costs involved in entering an agistment agreement, are discussed.

Additional keywords: arid zones, economics, market failure analysis, pastoral society, semiarid zones.


We are grateful to the 14 anonymous pastoralists who gave interviews for this research, and to Leigh Hunt, Bob Shepherd, Chris Stokes, John McIvor, Mark Ashley, Mark Stafford Smith and Yiheyis Maru for contributing their perspectives. We are also grateful to three anonymous referees for suggesting several improvements to this paper.


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