In the years prior to the commencement of the LBP project much attention had been focussed on the need for sustainable use of our agricultural resources. In a press release in October 1990, the Chairman of the then AMLRDC, Dr Nigel Monteith, gave a dire warning that "graziers In northern Australia will have to do something now about sustainability or someone else will do it for them". There had been numerous forums for discussions on sustainability among grazier groups, as well as Government and industry funded research. There was an awareness that a problem existed and there was also a body of information and opinions on how this problem could be resolved. What was missing was a co-ordinated approach towards taking effective action in meeting the demands that the problem presented. Without this consensus the grazing industry was receiving a confused message on sustainability, resulting in a lack of action. This was leading to a continued run down in productive resources.
The LBP process was considered to be the best method of providing short and long term solutions to the development of sustainable production systems. The project aimed to co-ordinate action to identify the costs and benefits of strategic management strategies for sustainable land use. The driving force in the process was to be the gathering and sharing of grazier recommendations and the harnessing of landholders as a force in the process of change. The Sustainable Beef Production Systems (SBPS) project (using the LBP process) commenced in Central Queensland in 1991. The success of this project in meeting these objectives prompted MRC to initiate a similar project in North Queensland.
A series of meetings were held during 1992 to develop the project and in January 1993 the northern LBP project commenced. Economic significance to the industry. Numerous estimates have been made about the percentage decrease in productivity from over utilisation of primary resources. Given that Queensland has approximately 43% of Australia's cattle, with an estimated ($A) billion dollars In annual beef production, any rundown in productive potential is economically significant to the industry and the nation. In their 1992 situation statement on the condition and productivity of the grazing lands of northern Australia. Tothill and Gillies estimated that 70% of the northern speargrass was degraded to some extent, with 55% (6.7 million hectares) amenable to rehabilitation through management A further 1 million hectares of the Bothriochloai/Chloris/Aristida land type was in the same category. It is essential that the beef industry consistently supplies a uniform high quality product to the increasingly discerning export markets which purchase the majority of Queensland's total beef production. Sustainable land use offers the potential to meet these requirements by avoiding the fluctuations in supply and quality, endemic in an industry that is over utilising its resources.
The primary objective of the project was to meet the demand from the producer, the beef industry, and the community at large for recommendations and actions to improve the management of the regions' grazing lands for efficient production and for a balanced environment The project targeted the tallgrass component of the NAP2 objective "To have 20% of degradation prone grazing land in N0I1hern Australia operating by the year 2000 under land use production systems which are, at the same time, environmentally sustainable and commercially viable". Components in reaching til is overall project objective were:
To document best-bet whole farm management strategies recommended by experienced producers.
To identify knowledge deficiencies in sustainable development.
To identify high priority research and development directions
To promote change in land management towards sustainable usage and development.
To enhance ownership of research and development to land managers
Tile specific project objectives for the LBP project were By December 97 to
Document best practice, whole farm management practices and strategies recommended by experienced producers for 24 groups in five regions in North Queensland and to share this knowledge between producers.
Identify and publish management strategies that improve productivity and profitability and are environmentally sustainable.
Identify and document knowledge deficiencies in sustainable production systems and identify high priority research and development needs.
Prepare and detail activities to promote changes in land management towards long term profitable and sustainable whole property management.
The project had a target of completing 24 LBP groups by December 97. Twenty-two groups completed the LBP process. Two groups commenced the process, (Weipa and Proserpine), but did not proceed beyond the first meeting, The Mt Coolon group had two meetings but requested that their report not be released for publication. The original project objective of documenting current, whole farm management strategies recommended by experienced producers and sharing this knowledge between producers was therefore achieved. While in most cases the producer reports documented current practice rather than best practice, the third workshop addressed this issue by comparing and discussing the productivity and sustainability of tile innovative producers in an area relative to the district average.