Benchmarking Rural Industries' Practices and Productivity Performance and Review of Industries' Capacity to Change
The beef industry's Southern Pastoral Zone stretches from about Bourke in central New South Wales, across central Australia and into central Western Australia. Beef cattle are grazed over 44,319,282 hectares of land, with only occasional feedlots that occur in localised areas. 49% of the pasture in this region are sown or introduced, and 50% of the pasture is native or naturalised. The following maps represent the distribution of cattle within this region.
In 1999, the statistics on beef production in this region were:
- 679,455 head of grazing cattle in specialist enterprises
- 6,834,063 head of cattle in mixed or feedlot enterprises
- an average specialist producer stocking rate of 10.0 hectares/head or 0.1 head/hectare
The Southern Pastoral Zone experiences an arid climate, with hot dry summers and cold winters, and mostly uniform low rainfall. Yields depend upon conservation of soil moisture from low rainfall. Enterprises in this region are large in area, averaging approximately 225,558 hectares in size due to the harshness of the climatic constraints.
Enterprises in this region and produce beef for domestic markets. In 1999, grazed land in the Southern Pastoral Zone included:
- 12,150,262 hectares of native pastures
- 193,431 hectares of sown pastures
- 2,256 hectares of lucerne pastures.
Beef cattle typically graze native pastures in this region.
What are the key characteristics of beef producers and farms in the Southern Pastoral Zone and how do they compare with industry averages??
Key characteristics of beef producers and farms in this region include:
|Industry average||Region Average|
|Age of owner/manager||58 years||46 years|
|Owner/manager education and skill:
- Completed university/tertiary or trade
|- Completed 5-6 years high school||22%||33%|
|- Completed 1-4 years high school||34%||18%|
|- Primary or no schooling||15%||0%|
|Family members working on farm||71 hr/wk||120 hr/wk|
|Owner manager work on farm||45 hr/wk||57 hr/wk|
|Number of dependent children||0.6||2.0|
|Farm cash income ($)||43,954||170,124|
|Total farm debt - June 30 ($)||120,487||310,545|
|Farm business profit ($)||- 9 033||233,757|
|Total off farm income ($)||29,858||26,698|
|Owner work off farm||6 hr/wk||3 hr/wk|
|Area operated - June 30||11,688 ha||225,558 ha|
|Farm ownership/ tenure:
|- Long term crown lease||85%||98%|
|Employment of non-family labour||9 hr/wk||32 hr/wk|
|Length of group involvement||6 years||8 years|
Producers in this zone work longer hours than the industry average, have a higher cash income, larger farm debt than the industry average, positive business profit, lower off-farm income, operate on little or no freehold land and have a higher than industry average landcare group membership levels. These combination of attributes suggest that the industry in this region has a capacity to implement change, but financial and tenure considerations will need to be taken into account due to high debt levels and lease condition requirements.
The proportion of beef farms with significant degradation problems is shown in the chart below. Weeds and erosion have been identified as the most significant of the nine ABARE (2000) surveyed degradation forms.
What is the beef industry doing to meet these environmental challenges in the Southern Pastoral Zone and across Australia?
The regional adoption and applicability of various management practices being implemented by the beef industry are illustrated in the chart below. The numbers represent industry averages.
Codes of Practice in the Southern Pastoral Zone.
The beef grazing industry does not currently have a specific code of practice, however, some guidance is provided to farmers through codes of practice for general agriculture such as that developed by the Queensland Farmer's Federation or through the PROGRAZE program.
The PROGRAZE program, jointly developed by NSW Agriculture, the Meat Research Corporation and the International Wool Secretariat, commenced in NSW in April 1994. PROGRAZE uses a series of organised courses run by state department officers and other accredited deliverers such as agricultural consultants. The courses concentrate on setting and achieving livestock and pasture production targets using skills in assessing livestock and the quality, quantity and stability of plant species within the grazing system
Research and development being undertaken/planned in the Southern Pastoral Zone.
The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for the Cattle and Beef Industry (meat quality) is a joint venture between the University of New England, CSIRO, NSW Agriculture and the Qld Department of Primary Industries. The CRC officially commenced operations in 1993 and has funding of $60 million over seven years. The Commonwealth Government and industry sponsors provide funding for the CRC operations.
The principle objectives of the CRC are:
- To develop genetic breeding technologies.
- To design novel feeding and management strategies to meet meat quality objectives in Australia's difficult environments.
- To address and resolve major constraints to intensive beef production by eliminating health and welfare concerns and reducing environmental pollution.
- To develop an understanding of economic relationships, evaluation of new technologies, and to assess broad community issues such as land and water use and long-term industry sustainability.
The CRC receives sponsorship from over 40 commercial firms from the beef production, processing and service centres. These firms provide cash or in-kind resources to facilitate research and education activities. Producers in this region participate in this program.
In addition to the nominated management practice responses and research, beef and wool producers of the Western Division of New South Wales are confronting similar environmental challenges that stem from the integration of their production systems into landscape systems. Native population grazing pressures (eg kangaroos), combined with pest populations such as rabbits, woody weeds and foxes, affect the production capacity of the pastoral systems to maintain adequate feed sources. In response, landholders in this region prepared a set of best practice guidelines on Total Grazing Pressure (TGP) that includes both production and landscape function related management responses. Key elements of these are:
- long-term stocking rate for the sustainable grazing of native pastures of approximately 30% utilisation of anticipated summer dry matter in 8 out of 10 years (20% for mulga pastures)
- avoid continual overgrazing allowing the pasture species to adequately set seed
- spell when the soil is moist to encourage pasture rejuvenation. Where dominated by annual grasses, spelling should be more frequent to encourage perennial species
- use highly palatable and nutritious grasses and herbs as indicators of pasture condition
- rehabilitate degraded areas through techniques such as:
- reduced grazing pressure
- prescribed burning
- sowing introduced species
- re-introducing native species
- furrowing and water-ponding
- incorporate the following controls into the production system:
- pig control
- rabbit control
- woody weed management (fire, chemical, mechanical and biological)
- subdivisional fencing, according to watering points, landforms, soils and vegetation, as well as livestock type
- bore capping
- drought relief packages
How is the Australian beef industry working with other agricultural industries to overcome some of the challenges faced by this region
Beef produced in this zone typically forms part of mixed pastoral systems with the sheep industry. These industries generally have mixed operations. Historic natural resource management issues that have potential to impact on regional environmental values and beef production include:
- total grazing pressure from native and introduced species impacting on pasture condition;
- runoff from watering points affecting erosion rates;
- habitat and conservation effects from vegetation clearing;
- dryland salinity.
The resolution of these issues requires ongoing research and development. The beef industry in this zone has involved itself in the planning processes presently proceeding on natural resource management issues such as:
- Water Allocation Management Plan (WAMP) development;
- Salinity Action Plan responses;
- Water Quality Improvement.
The beef industry in the Southern Pastoral Zone is geographically spread across the central areas of Australia. The fragility and vastness of the landscape and extensive nature of pastoralism within the zone results in natural resource management issues such as wind erosion and weed/pest control being difficult to manage. The zone is part of a fragile landscape system, and a system where competing land use pressures exist. Production systems are scrutinised for their level of impact, and the stewardship role they can play in protecting environmental and cultural values of the landscape.
Technology and research will need continual development if the insidious nature of salinity, woody weeds and wind erosion are to be checked. Cross-rural industry environmental effects are not as significant as in other rural areas, however cross-land use effects need consideration. Effects such as:
- protection of biodiversity and a reserve system for flora and fauna
- protection of cultural values
- maintenance of habitat and conservation values
need incorporation into pastoral industry production systems.
Link to Map maker to make a map using this information.
Link to data available for download on "A spatially consistent sub-set of agricultural statistics (AgStats) data 1982/93 to 1996/97"
Link to related web sites:
- Ausmeat website
- Australian Lot Feeders Association website
- Cattle Council of Australia website
- Cooperative Research Centre for Cattle and Beef Quality website
- Meat and Livestock Australia website
- Producer Initiated Research and Development website
- CSIRO Livestock Industries website
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