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Achieving drought resilience in the grazing lands of northern Australia: preparing, responding and recovering

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Bowen, M. K. and Chudleigh, F. (2021) Achieving drought resilience in the grazing lands of northern Australia: preparing, responding and recovering. The Rangeland Journal, 43 (2&3). pp. 67-76.


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ20058

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/RJ20058


Northern Australia is characterised by high rainfall variability and extended droughts that challenge sustainable and profitable management of grazing properties. To achieve drought resilience, emphasis must be placed on supporting livestock managers to prepare for drought as well as implementing appropriate drought response and recovery actions. Here we describe insights and learnings gained from working with scientists, industry development and extension officers, and property managers, to enable more profitable and drought resilient extensive livestock production systems across northern Australia. We provide examples from the modelling and analysis of hypothetical grazing properties representative of enterprises across northern Australia. To prepare for drought, we principally propose the application of the farm-management economics framework to identify investment strategies which can improve enterprise resilience through building wealth over the longer term. The critical first step in drought preparedness for beef businesses was the implementation of management strategies to achieve the optimal herd structure, steer sale age, and breeder body condition. Other key strategies to improve profitability across northern Australia were (1) addressing a phosphorus deficiency for cattle through effective supplementation and (2) establishing adapted perennial legume-grass pastures to improve steer nutrition. In addition, we identify the benefits of working closely with livestock managers and industry to gain adoption of proven technologies that effectively improve decision-making capacity and the drought preparedness of extensive livestock production systems. The usefulness of the farm-management economics approach to assess the relative value of alternative tactical destocking and restocking decisions during drought response and recovery is also discussed. These latter analyses can highlight important differences between options in terms of future profit and cash flow, as well as the ability to rapidly return the property to the most profitable herd structure and age of turnoff, with consideration of production and financial risk. Additionally, integrating pasture growth models with herd or flock economic models can provide insights into the effects, on profitability and sustainability, of alternative destocking and later restocking strategies over the longer term. Combined, the farm-management economics framework approach can support more informed decision-making by livestock producers and hence enable more profitable and drought resilient extensive livestock production systems. However, achieving drought resilience in the grazing lands of northern Australia will require emphasis on drought preparation, in addition to appropriate action in response and recovery phases of drought. Key to this approach is increasing the adoption of strategies that enhance drought preparedness.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Additional Information:Open access © The State of Queensland (through the Department Agriculture and Fisheries) [2021] Open Access CC BY-NC-ND
Keywords:beef cattle, decision making, drought management, extensive grazing systems, farm-management economics, goats, modelling, profitability, rangelands, rangeland management, sheep, technology adoption, tropical pastures.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural meteorology. Crops and climate
Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Live Archive:08 Mar 2021 01:40
Last Modified:22 Nov 2021 04:08

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