Livestock industries - project listing

A summary of Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT) livestock industries current and recently completed projects is shown below.

Our projects are organised into eight themes:

  1. Managing the feedbase for optimal production
  2. Improving reproductive productivity through the application of genetic principles and technology
  3. Optimising productivity through nutritional management
  4. Animal husbandry and management
  5. Buffalo and other livestock species
  6. Technical services for overseas markets
  7. Economics and development of the pastoral industry
  8. Extension and adoption.

In addition to the above, DITT also has other business units responsible for agricultural diversification, cropping and hay production, market development, investment attraction, animal welfare and biosecurity.

Each quarter DITT publishes a Pastoral Feed Outlook summarising seasonal conditions, pasture growth, standing dry matter levels, fire risk and drought risk. Subscribe to the NT Pastoral Feed Outlook.

More information on the progress and findings of our projects can be found in the DITT Annual Research Reports, by contacting the project leader or on the FutureBeef website.


ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
'The Sweet Spot': improving breeder herd performance through optimal pasture utilisation
A multi-agency desktop project to quantify the effect of pasture utilisation rates on reproductive performance of beef cattle across northern Australia (including central Australia). Update- COVID lockdowns and movement restrictions have prevented pasture modellers from getting together in person in 2020 and 2021, which has delayed the modelling of the case study sites, but progress is being made on modelling sites in the Alice, Sturt, Katherine and Barkly regions.
Robyn Cowley 2018-22 QDAF, QDES, Karingal Systems, MLA FutureBeef website
Paddock Power: unlocking the secrets to sustainable and profitable intensification
Measuring the impact of large under-watered paddocks on reproductive performance, providing recommendations for sustainable paddock development and a mapping tool and investment calculator for producers to make confident investment decisions.
Update: GPS collars have been removed from the first cohort of heifers and a second cohort of GPS units deployed. Analysis of data is ongoing.
Kieren McCosker 2018-23 CQU, Holmes and Co. MLA, Paraway, AACo FutureBeef website
Inside Edge
Improve modelling of grazing systems. Provide producers with information to prepare for and manage the impacts of drought, improve the northern Australian grazing simulation module GRASP and link to BoM’s new generation seasonal forecasting system ACCESS-S and DNRM’s new land assessment tool (LCAT) as grazing decision support tools.
Robyn Cowley 2017-21 QDES, QDAF, QLD Government -
NT carrying capacity project
Ongoing research and development to refine the scientific derivation of sustainable carrying capacity estimates for different land types. Robyn Cowley Ongoing - -
Pasture sustainability at Kidman Springs Monitoring the long-term sustainability of the carrying capacity estimates for Kidman Springs.
Update: No data collected in 2021. Will assess again in June 2022.
Caz Pettit - - -
Shruburn: long-term fire experiment at Kidman SpringsLong-term experiment assessing the best timing and frequency of prescribed burning to control woody vegetation thickening whilst maintaining optimal pasture condition.
Update: After an above average wet season in June 2021, following two dry years in 2019 and 2020, woody cover had declined due to the dry years (on unburnt plots) on red soils, but not black soils. The latest results will be presented at the ARS conference. They suggest burning is more important on black soils because dry years don’t knock back woody increases and pasture growth is more affected by woody cover on black soils than red soils.
Robyn Cowley - - FutureBeef website
Quality Graze - Central Australia Demonstration of how sustainable stocking rates can improve land condition, animal performance and profitability in arid areas. Chris Materne - - Quality graze so much more than a rotational grazing project
Central Australia improved feed Investigating improved pastures and the use of irrigation. Fieldwork for an oxylate study has been completed and a final report is underway. Chris Materne - - -
Implementing a rotational grazing and prescribed burning program at Kidman Springs - practicing what we preachDemonstration of how to successfully integrate a rotational grazing and burning program at the property scale.
Update: Two paddocks are due to be burnt in October 2021.
Caz Pettit - - -
Managing gamba grass with rotational grazing at Douglas Daly Research FarmInvestigating how to best use grazing to reduce the spread of gamba grass whilst achieving good animal production outcomes.
Update: Rotational grazing is giving good cattle growth rates and preventing gamba grass from seeding and spreading.
Tim Schatz - - Top Paddock - 08/2019

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Repronomics I and II: accelerated genetic improvement of reproduction To increase the accuracy of fertility EBVs which will improve the rate of progress through genetic selection for brahman and tropical composite cattle. Collaboration with AGBU and QDAF.
Update: Ovary scanning to determine age at puberty and post partum interval after first calving is being conducted, and DNA samples are being submitted for genotyping.
Tim Schatz and Gretel Bailey-Preston 2020-24 UNE, AGBU, QDAF, MLA FutureBeef website
Senepol crossbreeding projectDemonstration of how cross-breeding with tropically-adapted Bos taurus breeds can achieve good production outcomes and reduce market risk.
Update: The project has finished and a journal paper is soon to be submitted.
Tim SchatzRecently completed-FutureBeef website
Selection for fertility in a brahman herd Long-term demonstration of how selection for fertile brahman genetics can improve herd performance. Being conducted in conjunction with Repronomics II. Gretel Bailey-Preston Ongoing - FutureBeef website
Comparison of multibreed composite and brahman breeder productivity Comparing the performance of purebred brahman cattle to composite breeds to achieve good production outcomes and reduce market risk. Being conducted in conjunction with Repronomics II. Gretel Bailey-Preston Ongoing - -
Consistently meeting premium abattoir grid and MSA specifications for profitable steer turnoff from Central AustraliaInvestigating and evaluating practical management options for improving the consistency of high premium abattoir grid and MSA compliance from Central Australia.Chris Materne and Jocelyn Coventry---
Improving breeder herd efficiency in the arid region with performance recording and objective selection Demonstration of how to use objective selection data and practices to increase adaptation to Central Australian conditions. Jocelyn Coventry - - -
Female fertility phenobankThis project will link research genotypes to phenotypes which will standardize the language used for reproduction traits to facilitate development and adoption of new gEBVs; create an easy-to-use platform for data sharing; and recommend the most suitable phenotypes, genotypes and analytical methods to produce gEBVs across breeds.
Update: Field work has finished and the project findings are being presented at field days.
Gretel Bailey-Preston2018-21UQ, MLA, CSIRO-

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Easy P phosphorus supplementation projectDetermine if an easy to implement method of P supplementation is an effective method for producers in P deficient areas who find it difficult to supplement during the wet season.
Also conduct a producer demonstration site (PDS) demonstrating the method.
Update: Results so far show that the Easy P treatment is providing similar results to traditional wet season supplementation. Both treatments had high pregnancy rates in maiden heifers (95%).
Tim Schatz2020-25QDAF, WA DPIRD, NB2-
Water medication PDSThis PDS aims to demonstrate practical aspects of implementing water medication systems to address nutritional deficiencies and accessibility issues at a commercial scale. There are two sites, located in the Katherine and Barkly regions.Eleanor Fordyce2020-23NB2, DTS-

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Calf watchDeveloping a system to remotely monitor calving using birth sensors and GPS tracking collars. Also to use the system to investigate the factors contributing to foetal and calf loss in northern Australia.Tim Schatz2018-21University of Florida, MLAFutureBeef website
Reducing calf loss from exposureInvestigating the effectiveness of providing shade in treeless rangelands of the Barkly to reduce calf mortality. Update: Collars from 300 heifers recently removed, downloaded and data aggregated. Heifers were pregnancy tested and calves weaned. Analyses and reporting underway, but there was a 10% lower calf loss in the ‘shade’ group this year. During 2021/22, all heifers will be fitted with real-time GPS and have calf alerts inserted.Kieren McCosker2018-23CSIRO, University of Florida, CQU, UQ, MLA, University of SydneyFutureBeef website
Studies on the effectiveness and benefit of various insecticidal ear tagsOngoing short term studies at BHF and DDRF investigating options to reduce the impact of biting insects on livestockTim Schatz-YTexThe effect of insecticidal fly tags on cattle liveweight gain in the Douglas Daly region
Assessing the production benefits from using pain-relief at the branding cradleInvestigating the welfare impact and production benefits from providing alternative methods of pain relief at the time of dehorning / castration.Melissa Wooderson2019-23MLA, QDAFFutureBeef website
uSuckledThis project aims to develop a methodology to detect maternal behaviours using sensors attached to the heifer / cow, particularly targeting a cow being suckled. If successful, then describing suckling duration and frequency as predictors of pre-weaning average daily gain. Update: 30 heifers PTIC from FTAI will be monitored at KRS commencing in November. Calf Alerts have been purchased and tower infrastructure development is near completion.Kieren McCosker2020-24CSIRO, UQ, NB2, MLA-
Calf 48 hour - evaluating and enhancing technologies to detect parturition events in cattleThe project aims to improve diagnosis of causes of calf loss in extensive grazing systems. DITT is as collaborator on this project, with CQU the project lead. This work will be completed in conjunction with reducing calf loss from exposure project, as there are mutual data benefits.
Update: Calf alert devices are planned for deployment in mid-September. Staff have been successfully recruited, commencing October 2021.
Kieren McCosker2021-22CQUFutureBeef website

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Buffalo crossbreeding / tenderbuff / live export development and supplyLong-term ongoing project at BHF to improve the genetics of buffalo and ensure best practice transport and stunning practices and market development. Update: The buffalo research has been scaled back and the herd size reduced since the retirement of Barry Lemcke. Artificial insemination programs are continuing using top Italian Riverine dairy semen.Position currently vacant--Agrifutures website

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
No current projects COVID is restricting international work   

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Methods for Central Australian producers to reliably meet MSA standardsResearch into factors affecting compliance rates for MSA grading.Jocelyn Coventry and Chris Materne - - -

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Central Australia Self Herding (CASH) producer demonstration site On-property demonstration of the applications of Rangelands self herding techniques in Central Australia. Meg Humphrys 2020-25 Stress Free Stockmanship (Bruce Maynard), MLA, several Alice Springs producers FutureBeef website
FutureBeef Coordinated delivery of extension and adoption programs and information, including the website as a 'one-stop shop' for information. Dionne Walsh, Elle Fordyce and Meg Humphrys 2019-21 QDAF, WA DPIRD, MLA FutureBeef website
Northern Breeding Business (NB2) Pathways to Practice This collaborative project aims to create a producer led, peer-to-peer, research, development and adoption model that will result in measurable practice change to improve breeder herd efficiency and reduce calf wastage. Dionne Walsh 2020-24 QDAF, WA DPIRD, NB2 Meat and Livestock Australia website
Producer demonstration sites Small on-property demonstrations to increase local uptake of proven technologies / practices Eleanor Fordyce and Meg Humphrys - - -
EDGE Network (Meat and Livestock Australia) training courses Provide MLA-accredited training on topics including grazing land management, grazing fundamentals, breeding, nutrition and business. Dionne Walsh - - -
Barkly Herd Management Forum Biennial workshops targeted to head stockmen, assistant managers and managers to present the latest information on managing a pastoral business.Elle Fordyce - - -
Rangeland management courses Introduction to grazing management, weed ID, animal welfare and biosecurity for first year stock camp staff. Run on request in the Katherine and Barkly districts.Elle Fordyce - - -
FutureBeef collaborationCoordinated delivery of extension and adoption programs and information across northern Australia, including the website as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for informationElle Fordyce---
Field days and other public events Ad-hoc events to engage with industry. All staff Ongoing - -
Northern Australian Climate Program (NACP) - extension projectUSQ-led project to improve weather and climate tools and literacy for the northern beef industry. DITT are on the steering committee.
Update: The project is due to finish in April 2022 but it is possible that it could be extended (the project is being reviewed in early September).
Robyn Cowley2018-21USQ, QDAF, WA DPIRD, MLANorthern Australia Climate Program website
Northern Breeding Business (NB2) pathways to practice - breeder herd efficiency and managing calf wastage for northern production systemsThis collaborative project across northern Australia aims to create a producer led, peer-to-peer, research, development and adoption model that will result in measurable practice change to improve breeder herd efficiency and reduce calf wastage.Eleanor Fordyce and Kieren McCosker2020-24NB2, MLAMeat and Livestock Australia website

ProjectPurpose Project leader More information
Rangelands self herding: Victoria River Research Station Demonstration of a behaviour-based approach to modifying grazing patterns to achieve more even pasture utilisation without the need for more fencing. Dionne Walsh FutureBeef website
Stocking rate and pasture spelling demonstration: Alexandria Station Demonstration of the impact of stocking rate management and wet season spelling on land condition trends around bores of different ages. Jane Douglas  
Intensive rotational grazing: Beetaloo / Mungabroom Stations A project to evaluate the land condition, livestock and economic performance of an intensive rotational grazing system implemented in the Peabush area of Mungabroom Station. Jane Douglas and Dionne Walsh  
Senepol Crossbreeding Demonstration of how cross-breeding with tropically-adapted Bos taurus breeds can achieve good production outcomes and reduce market risk. Fieldwork for this project has been completed and a final report is underway. Tim Schatz  
Meating the grid with culled cows A project to evaluate different options for improving the economic value of culled cows. Reporting almost completed. Kieren McCosker  
Prevalence of bitten young cattle in the Northern Territory A project to establish a practical system of recording the incidence of wild-dog damage on calves within breeding herds of the NT. Describing the impact and estimating the economic impact of wild dogs on cattle production in the NT.
Manuscript to be submitted during 2020/21.
Kieren McCosker  
Controlling feathertop wiregrass An experiment at Newcastle Waters Station found that using fire to control feathertop is not a 'sure bet'. Project looked at NT producers carefully weighing up the risks and rewards. Dionne Walsh NBRUC Conference proceedings (page 117)

Last updated: 13 September 2021

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