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The Australian cattle herd

Beef production in Australia is the largest agricultural industry and exporter. Australia exports approximately $12  billion in beef products per annum. 

After a period of lower  cattle numbers, there is  a forecast positive  outlook for beef  production and beef  exported to 2021. Gladstone Beef is  located in the Fitzroy  region with  approximately 2.9  million cattle, or 25% of  the Queensland herd.

► The Australian beef industry is large and diverse, with Queensland being the largest  beef producing State in Australia, carrying approximately half of Australia’s 25 million  head of cattle.

► The majority of Australian beef cattle producers are cow-calf operators, maintaining a  herd of breeding cows and a small number of bulls for the production of calves for sale.

► Australian cattle are mainly raised (grown) on pasture, with some cattle then entering  feedlots to finish their growing on grain in order to meet the size and meat quality  demanded in different domestic (Australian) and international markets.

► Between 2013 and 2017 the Australian cattle herd was reducing due to tight supplies,  with cattle producers holding cattle to restock as apposed to selling to beef processors.  Industry expectations are that herd numbers are forecast to increase over the period to  2021.



Cattle Production Zone

Beef cattle production has  historically been divided  into a northern and a  southern region – each  having a different  production system and  market focus. Improvements in cattle  genetics and breeding in  recent years has resulted  in ‘composite’ cattle.

Composite being a  ‘crossbreed’ between  northern and southern cattle  breeds to:

► achieve breeds which can  tolerate the northern  growing conditions; and

► deliver high quality beef  that appeals to premium  consumer markets in  select Asian regions.

Beef cattle production has historically been divided into a northern and a  southern region – each having a different production system and market focus.

► The Northern herd – predominately Bos Indicus (Brahman) breeds – is bred to  withstand the harsh condition in Central and Far-North Queensland – high  temperature, drought conditions, and lower quality pastures. Consequently  the eating quality is low and therefore processed and exported as  manufactured beef (e.g. hamburger patties to the US). Alternatively live  exported to specific Asian markets (Indonesia).

► The Southern herd – predominately Bos Taurus (Angus) breeds – produces high  quality beef as these cattle have access to higher quality pastures, and fed  grain in feedlots, to produce the high quality beef cuts for premium consumer  markets in, for example, Japan and South Korea and also domestically in  Australia.

The supply of beef products is affected by seasonality, particularly in Northern  Australia because of a relatively large breeding herd (compared to  backgrounded/growing herd); the wet season; and drought conditions.

Improvements in cattle genetics and  breeding in recent years has resulted in  ‘composite’ cattle. Composite being a  ‘crossbreed’ between northern and  southern cattle breeds to achieve breeds  which can tolerate the northern growing  conditions, and deliver high quality beef  that appeals to premium consumer  markets in select Asian regions.