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Australian cattle herd: a new perspective on structure, performance and production

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Fordyce, G., Shephard, R., Moravek, T. and McGowan, M. R. (2023) Australian cattle herd: a new perspective on structure, performance and production. Animal Production Science, 63 (4). pp. 410-421.


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/AN20342

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AN20342


Context: Businesses within the Australian cattle industries and associated research and advisory agencies require accurate data on production and performance of the national herd. Currently, these are derived from survey and statistical data; the latter is expected to be accurate, but the former needs to be tested in view of information suggesting significant under-reporting.Aims: The research aimed to define the structure, performance and liveweight production of the Australian cattle herd and describe changes in reproduction, growth and survival over the past 40–50 years.Methods: Interactive static herd modelling of beef and dairy herds was reconciled each year from 1976 to 2018, using slaughter and live export statistics and surveyed dairy cow numbers. A principle applied was that model performance should dictate input variables, moderating information derived from publications and professional opinion.Key results: The Australian cattle herd fluctuated in size till the mid-1980s from when it settled into a range of 30–40 million beef cattle (12–16 Mt), exceeding survey data by 56–75%. The dairy herd remained at ~10% of the beef herd. Despite consistent herd size, productivity of the cattle herd increased from ~2.5 to 4.5 Mt of liveweight annually over 35 years. Half of this change was due to reductions in mortality, though ~1 million post-weaning-age cattle still die annually, in addition to >0.5 million calves from birth to weaning. Approximately a quarter each of the change was due to increased reproductive output and to steer growth. Liveweight production per beef animal increased from 70–75 kg/year to 130–135 kg/year, while liveweight production ratio increased by 0.08 and 0.12 kg/kg of cattle in male and female beef cattle respectively, to reach 0.31 kg/kg of cattle.Conclusions: The main conclusion is the size, performance, production and productivity of the Australian cattle herd are quite different from that determined from surveys. Also, there is an on-going opportunity to derive benefit from improving cattle survival, reproduction and growth and from improving the feed base.Implications: This research may have large impact on priorities for Australian beef business and associated environmental management. It is recommended that surveys be used to derive relative values to use in combination with absolute statistical data to derive accurate herd measures.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Additional Information:Open access
Keywords:calf wastage, lactation rate.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural economics
Animal culture > Breeding and breeds
Animal culture > Cost, yield and profit. Accounting
Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Animal culture > Cattle > Meat production
Live Archive:06 May 2021 04:31
Last Modified:22 Jun 2023 06:23

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