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The economics of phosphorus supplementation of beef cattle grazing northern Australian rangelands

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Bowen, M. K., Chudleigh, F., Dixon, R.M., Sullivan, M. T., Schatz, T. and Oxley, T. (2020) The economics of phosphorus supplementation of beef cattle grazing northern Australian rangelands. Animal Production Science, 60 . pp. 683-693.


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/AN19088

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AN19088


Context: Phosphorus (P) deficiency occurs in beef cattle grazing many rangeland regions with low-P soils, including in northern Australia, and may severely reduce cattle productivity in terms of growth, reproductive efficiency and mortality. However, adoption of effective P supplementation by cattle producers in northern Australia is low. This is likely to be due to lack of information and understanding of the profitability of P supplementation where cattle are P-deficient.
Aims: The profitability of P supplementation was evaluated for two dissimilar regions of northern Australia, namely (1) the Katherine region of the Northern Territory, and (2) the Fitzroy Natural Resource Management (NRM) region of central Queensland.
Methods: Property-level, regionally relevant herd models were used to determine whole-of-business productivity and profitability over 30 years. The estimated costs and benefits of P supplementation were obtained from collation of experimental data and expert opinion of persons with extensive experience of the industry. The economic consequences of P supplementation at the property level were assessed by comparison of base production without P supplementation with the expected production of P-supplemented herds, and included the implementation phase and changes over time in herd structure. In the Katherine region, it was assumed that the entire cattle herd (breeders and growing cattle) grazed acutely P-deficient land types and the consequences of (1) no P supplementation, or P supplementation during (2) the dry season, or (3) both the wet and dry seasons (i.e. 3 scenarios) were evaluated. In the Fitzroy NRM region, it was assumed that only the breeders grazed P-deficient land types with three categories of P deficiency (marginal, deficient and acutely deficient), each with either (1) no P supplementation, or P supplementation during (2) the wet season, (3) the dry season, or (4) both the wet and dry seasons (i.e. 12 scenarios).
Key results: In the Katherine region, year-round P supplementation of the entire cattle herd (7400 adult equivalents) grazing acutely P-deficient pasture resulted in a large increase in annual business profit (+AU$500 000). Supplementing with P (and N) only in the dry season increased annual business profit by +AU$200 000. In the Fitzroy NRM region, P supplementation during any season of the breeder herd grazing deficient or acutely P-deficient pastures increased profit by +AU$2400–AU$45 000/annum (total cattle herd 1500 adult equivalents). Importantly, P supplementation during the wet season-only resulted in the greatest increases in profit within each category of P deficiency, comprising +AU$5600, AU$6300 and AU$45 000 additional profit per annum for marginal, deficient and acutely P-deficient herds respectively.
Conclusions: The large economic benefits of P supplementation for northern beef enterprises estimated in the present study substantiate the current industry recommendation that effective P supplementation is highly profitable when cattle are grazing P-deficient land types.
Implications: The contradiction of large economic benefits of P supplementation and the generally low adoption rates by the cattle industry in northern Australia suggests a need for targeted research and extension to identify the specific constraints to adoption, including potential high initial capital costs.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Additional Information:The State of Queensland (through the Department Agriculture and Fisheries) 2020
Keywords:farm-management economics, P nutrition, P supplementation, tropical pastures.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural economics
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Farm economics. Farm management. Agricultural mathematics
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Improvement, reclamation, fertilisation, irrigation etc., of lands (Melioration)
Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Live Archive:28 Oct 2019 01:30
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:45

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