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.