Meat & Livestock News

Optimal Beef Production System for Southern Rangelands Unveiled


Recent findings presented at the Australian Rangelands Conference in Broome have shed light on the optimal balance for beef production in Western Australia’s Southern Rangelands. This balance aims to maximise profitability, sustainability, and resilience against drought.


Bio-economic modelling conducted by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has revealed that the most environmentally and financially viable production system involves turning off slaughter steers and heifers weighing 500-560 kilograms at a reduced stocking rate.

Research scientist Christophe d’Abbadie explained that this system is anchored by a conservative stocking rate, leading to a more consistent herd and net income, especially during drought conditions.

He noted, “The slaughter production approach yields more beef kilograms at a similar grazing pressure and recovers more swiftly post-drought than systems focusing on weaner production and live export.”

Key to the success of this model is a stocking rate set at 66% of the recommended rate, coupled with stringent control over all other grazing pressures.

This strategy allows accumulating residual palatable rangeland vegetation, colloquially termed ‘haystacks’, which becomes an essential feed source during droughts.

Furthermore, this approach could enhance the rangeland’s condition over time and potentially reduce methane emission intensity for each kilogram of meat produced compared to other modelled scenarios. 

The study also suggests that this conservative stocking might open up market opportunities for higher-quality cattle during extended drought periods. It could prevent forced sales during droughts and circumvent the need to purchase at elevated prices during recovery phases.

In the long run, this strategy might also pave the way for additional income streams from carbon sequestration of rangeland vegetation and biodiversity enhancements. Such benefits could facilitate producers’ transition to this approach.

Given the anticipated increase in extreme drought events in the Southern Rangelands in the upcoming decades, d’Abbadie emphasised the business acumen of this strategy.

He added that it would safeguard the rangeland’s condition during droughts and bolster graziers’ social licence to operate.