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Climate Clever Beef: On-farm demonstration of adaptation and mitigation options for climate change in northern Australia

Productivity growth and returns on investment are generally static or declining across much of the northern Australian beef industry. Together with high debt levels and increased costs, these pressures are seriously undermining the resilience of beef businesses to climatic variability and market shocks. That said, recent analysis in the sector has found that some businesses are performing well, which suggests there are opportunities to increase the average performance (and resilience) of the industry. 

Animal production and land management research in northern Australia has highlighted several areas of opportunity to lift performance in a cost-effective way. However, when faced with an array of choices, it is often difficult for producers to determine which will deliver the best return on investment for their business in the medium to long-term. 

 This project engaged with beef producers in five regions of northern Australia to identify management strategies that improve the performance and resilience of beef businesses. The work was done in the context of increasing the resilience of businesses to current climate variability as well as to projected future changes in climate. 

The project also undertook analyses to identify potential synergies and conflicts between improved business performance, climate adaptation practices and greenhouse gas emissions management. Industry engagement was achieved via on-property demonstration sites, case studies and a large number of industry forums, field days and workshops. Three regions (Qld Gulf, Fitzroy Basin and Victoria River District) evaluated the relative performance of management options using a benchmarking and scenario analysis approach with three focal properties. These detailed analyses were complemented by a suite of on-property demonstration sites in those regions. The other two regions (Qld Mitchell grasslands and NT Barkly Tablelands) explored locally-relevant adaptation options using on-property demonstration sites. All sites have been documented in this report and via fact sheets available on the internet (http://futurebeef.com.au/resources/projects/climate-clever-beef/). 

The focal property analyses used a systematic process to assess current performance and estimate the likely impacts of locally-relevant management options. Five indicators of performance were evaluated for each property profitability, productivity, land condition, climate change risk and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, in the Qld Gulf region, potential improvements in business resilience were linked to options that improved overall return on assets, gross margin ratio and overhead ratio. For this region, options that reduced the high cost of supplementation (i.e. better targeted supplementation) also performed well. Poor land condition is an issue on some properties in northern Australia, but the Qld Gulf focal property analysis clearly demonstrated how stocking around the long-term carrying capacity and implementing wet season spelling over a 15 year period led to dramatic improvements in land condition. This improvement in land condition, combined with herd management improvements, increased productivity and profitability, reduced total greenhouse gas emissions by 15%, and improved greenhouse gas emissions efficiency by >100%. 

The analysis identified additional opportunities to increase productivity and emissions efficiency including the use of foetal aging of cows at pregnancy diagnosis, more efficient feeding of weaners, and use of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to improve supplementation efficiency.

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6.2MB 30/01/2014

This page was last updated on 25/07/2017

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