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Boosting the productivity and profitability of northern Australian beef enterprises: Exploring innovation options using simulation modelling and systems analysis

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Ash, A., Hunt, L., McDonald, C., Scanlan, J., Bell, L., Cowley, R., Watson, I., McIvor, J. and MacLeod, N. (2015) Boosting the productivity and profitability of northern Australian beef enterprises: Exploring innovation options using simulation modelling and systems analysis. Agricultural Systems, 139 . pp. 50-65. ISSN 0308521X


Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2015.06.001


The financial health of beef cattle enterprises in northern Australia has declined markedly over the last decade due to an escalation in production and marketing costs and a real decline in beef prices. Historically, gains in animal productivity have offset the effect of declining terms of trade on farm incomes. This raises the question of whether future productivity improvements can remain a key path for lifting enterprise profitability sufficient to ensure that the industry remains economically viable over the longer term. The key objective of this study was to assess the production and financial implications for north Australian beef enterprises of a range of technology interventions (development scenarios), including genetic gain in cattle, nutrient supplementation, and alteration of the feed base through introduced pastures and forage crops, across a variety of natural environments. To achieve this objective a beef systems model was developed that is capable of simulating livestock production at the enterprise level, including reproduction, growth and mortality, based on energy and protein supply from natural C4 pastures that are subject to high inter-annual climate variability. Comparisons between simulation outputs and enterprise performance data in three case study regions suggested that the simulation model (the Northern Australia Beef Systems Analyser) can adequately represent the performance beef cattle enterprises in northern Australia. Testing of a range of development scenarios suggested that the application of individual technologies can substantially lift productivity and profitability, especially where the entire feedbase was altered through legume augmentation. The simultaneous implementation of multiple technologies that provide benefits to different aspects of animal productivity resulted in the greatest increases in cattle productivity and enterprise profitability, with projected weaning rates increasing by 25%, liveweight gain by 40% and net profit by 150% above current baseline levels, although gains of this magnitude might not necessarily be realised in practice. While there were slight increases in total methane output from these development scenarios, the methane emissions per kg of beef produced were reduced by 20% in scenarios with higher productivity gain. Combinations of technologies or innovative practices applied in a systematic and integrated fashion thus offer scope for providing the productivity and profitability gains necessary to maintain viable beef enterprises in northern Australia into the future.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Biosecurity Queensland
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural economics
Science > Statistics > Simulation modelling
Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Live Archive:15 Jul 2015 03:35
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:50

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