The MRC's coordinated investment in on-farm research, development and extension in northem Australia commenced in 1986 with the initiation of the first North Australia Program (NAP1). That five year program was followed by NAP2 (1991-1996).
The corporation's activities in this area have now evolved into its third phase, that is NAP3 (1996-2001 ). The focus of NAP3 is on the advancement and refinement of past achievements and their consolidation in an integrated management context. The program is also fully cognisant of the demands and direction that the expansion of the export of live feeder cattle to south east Asia is imposing on the northem beef industry.
NAP3 covers the beef producing areas of Queensland, the Northem Territory and the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Westem Australia, encompassing a broad diverse range of agri-ecological zones from the highly fertile fattening and grain producing brigalow country of Queensland to the arid desert regions of the Northem Territory and Western Australia. Rainfall is also extremely variable but is predominantly summer, monsoon influenced with a pronounced, relatively short lived growing season and an extended dry season.
NAP3 is focused on the needs of beef producers in northern Australia. These 24,000 beef producers account for about half the Australian beef herd; 40% of national beef production and 60% of beef exports. Of these northern producers, 15% of beef establishments carry about 70% of the cattle on about 85% of the beef lands. There is great variability across northern Australia in climate, infrastructure and markets.
The core issues which face the meat and livestock industry in northem Australia are continued deterioration in terms of trade, variable but generally low profitability, increased focus on the need for ecological sustainability and the capability and structures of the meat processing and marketing sectors.
The overall Goal of NAP3 is to enhance the productivity and sustainability, both ecological and economic, of the beef production sector in northern Australia and, by incorporating those enhancements in integrated property management, to improve its profitability and international competitiveness.
NAP3 is comprised of four interdependent sub-programs, each directed towards adding value to other sub-programs and all directed towards achieving the overall program goal of improving profitability, intemational competitiveness and ecological sustainability. The four sub-programs are -
Sub-program 1 Meeting market requirements
Sub-program 2 Improving resource management
Sub Program 3 Improving property management
Sub program 4 Improving program delivery
Details of all four sub programs are provided in the Meat Research Corporation's NAP3 Business Plan, published in October 1997. Projects and activities with introduced pasture plants form parts of Sub-programs 1 and 2.