Livestock industries projects

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 8 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. International livestock industries development benefiting Australia
  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.

For more information on the progress and findings of our projects, see DITT annual research reports, contact the project leader, or go to 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 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.
Location: Desktop study and modelling.
Robyn Cowley 2018-24 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.
Location: Commercial Barkly Tableland properties
Christie Pearson / Caz Pettit 2018-23 UA, 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.
Update: The project has finished and a final report has been submitted.
Location: Desktop study and modelling
Robyn Cowley 2017-22 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.
Location: Various commercial properties and computer assessment.
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.
Location: VRRS
Caz Pettit Ongoing - -
Shruburn: long-term fire experiment at Kidman Springs Long-term experiment assessing the best timing and frequency of prescribed burning to control woody vegetation thickening whilst maintaining optimal pasture condition.
Update: The latest results were 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.
Location: VRRS
Robyn Cowley Ongoing - FutureBeef website
Quality Graze - Central Australia Demonstration of how sustainable stocking rates can improve land condition, animal performance and profitability in arid areas.
Update: 2011-2021 animal and pasture data collection and analysis has been completed. The final report is due for completion by the end of 2022. The 2022 data will be collected to gauge the land condition response following two consecutive La Nina events.
Location: OMP
Chris Materne Ongoing - Quality graze so much more than a rotational grazing project
Central Australia improved feed Investigating improved pastures and the use of irrigation in central Australia. The risk of oxalate poisoning of cows grazing irrigated buffel grass is also being investigated.
Update: Fieldwork has been completed and a final report is underway. A report for Territory Grape Farm is completed. Results extended through the NT Rural Review and FutureBeef.
Chris Materne 2022Janet Chisholm (Territory Grape Farm) and Tim Driver (Precision Pastoral) -
Implementing a rotational grazing and prescribed burning program at Kidman Springs - practicing what we preach Demonstration of how to successfully integrate a rotational grazing and burning program at the property scale.
Update: Two paddocks were burnt in October 2021. The 2021/22 wet season at VRRS was very poor (8th percentile), and pasture monitoring is continuing.
Location: VRRS
Caz Pettit Ongoing - -
Managing gamba grass with rotational grazing at Douglas Daly Research Farm Investigating 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.
Location: DDRF
Tim Schatz 2018-23 - Top Paddock - 08/2019

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Repronomics 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 continuing, and DNA samples are being submitted for genotyping.
Location: DDRF, VRRS, BHF
Tim Schatz and Gretel Bailey-Preston 2020-24 UNE, AGBU, QDAF, MLA 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.
Location: VRRS, DDRF, KRS
Gretel Bailey-Preston Ongoing - -
Consistently meeting premium abattoir grid and MSA specifications for profitable steer turnoff from Central Australia Investigating and evaluating practical management options for improving the consistency of high premium abattoir grid and MSA compliance from Central Australia.
Update: A pre-trucking feeding trial found that feeding steers supplementary Lucerne for 3 weeks prior to trucking and improved the MSA grading rate by 11%. However, this was neither significant nor cost-effective.
Location: OMP
Chris Materne and Jocelyn Coventry Ongoing - Northern Beef Research Update Conference
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.
Location: OMP
Jocelyn Coventry Ongoing - -

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
'Easy P' phosphorus supplementation project Determine 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.
Location: VRRS 
Tim Schatz 2020-25 QDAF, WA DPIRD, MLA, NB2 -
Water medication PDS This PDS aims to demonstrate practical aspects of implementing water medication systems to address nutritional deficiencies and accessibility issues at a commercial scale.
Update: There are 2 sites, located in the Katherine and Barkly regions where one treatment group is provided phosphorus supplement via water medication and the other through the property’s existing supplementation practice. Performance, GPS and management data of each treatment will be collected during the first round musters of 2022.
Stacey Holzapfel 2020-23 MLA, NB2, DTS -

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Calf watch Developing 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.
Update: The final report for the project has been submitted. Work is continuing to identify calving from accelerometer data collected during the project.
Location: Manbulloo
Tim Schatz 2018-21 University of Florida, MLA FutureBeef website
Reducing calf loss from exposure Investigating the effectiveness of providing shade in treeless rangelands of the Barkly to reduce calf mortality. A collaboration between DITT, CSIRO and CQU.
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. A subcontract has been established to enable Kieren to finish this project while working for UQ.
Location: Commercial properties
Kieren McCosker (UQ) / Georgia Glasson 2018-23 CSIRO, University of Florida, CQU, UQ, MLA, University of Sydney FutureBeef website
Studies on the effectiveness and benefit of various insecticidal ear tags Ongoing short term studies at BHF and DDRF investigating options to reduce the impact of biting insects on livestock.
Update: A trial testing eartags with a new active agent is scheduled for 2022.
Location: BHF
Tim Schatz As required YTex The 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 cradle Investigating the welfare impact and production benefits from providing alternative methods of pain relief at the time of dehorning / castration.
Update: The initial phase has been completed and a decision is being made whether to extend the project for another year.
Location: DDRF, BHF and commercial properties.
Melissa Wooderson 2019-23 MLA, QDAF FutureBeef website
Calf 48 hour - evaluating and enhancing technologies to detect parturition events in cattle The 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 were deployed in mid-September. A subcontract has been established to enable Kieren to finish this project while working for UQ.
Location: Commercial Barkly properties
Kieren McCosker (UQ) / Georgia Glasson 2021-22 CQU, MLA FutureBeef website

ProjectPurpose Project leaderTimeframeCollaborators More information
Buffalo crossbreeding / tenderbuff / live export development and supply Long-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.
Location: BHF
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 standards Research into factors affecting compliance rates for MSA grading of central Australian cattle.
Update: 100% of steers grazing a temperate pasture for 100 days under pivot irrigation successfully graded MSA. However, it was more profitable to irrigate for hay production than to graze steers.
Location: Oolloo Farm
Jocelyn Coventry and Chris Materne - Oolloo FarmNorthern Beef Research Update Conference

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. 5-year partnership with Bruce Maynard (external provider).Lakota Taber 2020-25 MLA, Bruce Maynard FutureBeef website
Producer demonstration sites Small on-property demonstrations to increase local uptake of proven technologies / practices Extension Leader - - -
EDGE Network (Meat and Livestock Australia) training courses Provide MLA-accredited training on topics including grazing land management, grazing fundamentals, breeding, nutrition and business. Position currently vacant -MLAMLA website
Barkly Herd Management Forum Biennial workshops targeted to head stockmen, assistant managers and managers to present the latest information on managing a pastoral business. Stacey Holzapfel Ongoing - -
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. Stacey Holzapfel Ongoing as required - -
FutureBeef collaboration Coordinated delivery of extension and adoption programs and information across northern Australia, including the website as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for information Stacey HolzapfelOngoingMLA, QDAFFutureBeef website
Field days and other public events Ad-hoc events to engage with industry. All staff Ongoing - -
Northern Australian Climate Program (NACP) - extension project USQ-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.
Robyn Cowley 2018-22 USQ, QDAF, WA DPIRD, MLA Northern Australia Climate Program website
Northern Breeding Business (NB2) pathways to practice - breeder herd efficiency and managing calf wastage for northern production systems This 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.
Update: A pilot producer group is being established in the Katherine region.
Stacey Holzapfel 2020-24 NB2, MLA Meat and Livestock Australia website
Carrying capacity advisory serviceProvide carrying capacity assessments and property development advice on requestCaroline PettitOngoing 

ProjectPurpose Project leader More information
uSuckledA project to develop a methodology to detect maternal behaviours using sensors attached to heifers, particularly targeting suckling.Kieren McCosker (UQ) / Georgia Glasson 
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: 23 August 2022

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