Technical services notebook

Tropical beef production and husbandry of Australian cattle and buffalo in SE Asia

by David Ffoulkes

The notebook, compiled by David Ffoulkes, the former technical services manager at Livestock Industries within the department, shares over 40 years of experience, learnings and research whilst employed by the Northern Territory (NT) Government.

The notebook covers the work of exporters and technical officers advising south-east (SE) Asian importers on best practice lot-feeding and breeding using Australian cattle.

Freely available for download, copyright remains with the NT Government. The contents of this publication may be used with appropriate citations.

Get a copy of the Tropical beef production and husbandry of Australian cattle and buffalo in SE Asia PDF (15.9 MB).


Australian cattle and buffalo from northern Australia are well suited to tropical beef production on an industrial scale, when supported by best practice management and husbandry, together with TLC from their human carers.

For more than a century live cattle from northern Australia have been shipped to SE Asian markets, and by the late 1970s, annual live cattle exports from Port Darwin reached nearly half a million head. Following the Asian economic crisis in 1997, total live exports ex-Darwin dropped significantly to 160,400 head (1998), but more recently numbers have ranged from 510,860 head (2015) to 373,836 head (2019).

From the mid-90s, the NT Government, through the former Department of Primary Industry (DPI), provided technical support to the offshore clients of NT livestock exporters to help develop and improve their feedlot and breeder operations. This also included training for government officials and farmers involved in livestock development programs using cattle imported from northern Australia. Much of the Technical Support Program (TSP) was externally funded by Meat & Livestock Australia, the Crawford Fund, and the Australian Government.

As manager of the TSP in SE Asia, ruminant nutrition knowledge and previous working experience in tropical livestock production in southern Africa, Central America and Indonesia, was crucial for providing incisive advice, together with team members Barry Lemcke and Chris Regan with their practical expertise and training skills. NT Government staff, including our Vietnamese interpreter Thai Tung, and private sector stakeholders who participated in the program, are also acknowledged for their input. A map showing cattle feedlot and breeding operations in SE Asia that have been supported by the TSP, can be found opposite page one.

The purpose of this notebook, which has mostly been sourced from 20 years of visits, advisories and training, is to provide all stakeholders with a handy knowledge base for planning and operating beef enterprises in SE Asia using cattle and buffalo from northern Australia.

David Ffoulkes
June 2021

Last updated: 06 December 2021

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