The North Australia beef industry is a major agricultural enterprise within Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the north-west of Western Australia and is by far the major land user by area in this large region. Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has completed 12 years of its North Australia Program (NAP), which has had a strong emphasis on lifting productivtty, particularly through increases in turnoff rates and live weights. However, in the last seven years, increasing attention has also been given, within the Improving Resource Management sub-program, to the sustainability of the pasture resource, particularly in regard to grazing management, especially grazing pressure.
There are 24 pasture communtties containing 151 pasture untts across northern Australia. The condition of these pastures was assessed in 1991 and it was found that of the areas assessed 56% was well managed, 12% was degraded to an extent requiring major resources to reclaim tt and 32% was in a deteriorated condition, which could be improved by low cost management techniques. The R&D emphasis within the NAP has been to work on these deteriorating pastures to develop management systems to maintain or improve them. It is clearly impossible to work on all communtties and pasture units so eight major zones were identified'. These zones cover 93% of the total area, 93% of the total domestic livestock, 96% of the area of sown pastures and 85% of the area under crops.
The overall goal of the Improving Resource Management sub-program within Phase 3 of the NAP is to improve the development and adoption of ecologically sustainable resource management systems and their profitable use by the northern Australian beef industry. In working to achieve this goal, this sub-program sought to :
improve ability to determine land capability and appropriate grazing levels and strategies;
work to examine the relationships, on a regional or landscape basis, between livestock production and ecological sustainability, broadly defined to include maintenance of regional populations of plants and animals, as well as maintaining the condttion and productivtty of land and water resources;
support research to develop effective linkages between knowledge and decision-making processes; and
ensure at least a 50% increase in awareness by specialist beef producers of ecologically sustainable management principles, with at least half of such producers applying these principles by June 2001.