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EnviroNorth > All Regions > Grazing > Industry Outlook

Industry outlook

Bright prospects

While it is difficult to generalise about such a complex industry, the prospects for pastoral enterprises seem reasonably bright. However there are very definite exceptions to this outlook in certain regions of the tropical savannas.

The sustainability of properties in some parts of North East Queensland for example is questionable, and producers are having to amalgamate with other properties in order to stay viable. Properties in some parts of the Gulf region and Cape York are also marginally productive, and owners are participating in off-farm employment simply to stay afloat.

While some may see this as an acceptable option allowing the maintenance of a rural lifestyle, properties and land condition will decline if managers spend too much of their working time off property. In contrast to areas in North East Queensland where property sizes may be too small, those in Cape York and the Gulf region are arguably too large, with running costs outstripping profits.

Long-term sustainability

Interlinked with economic viability is the long-term ecological sustainability of the industry. Managing the natural resources upon which the beef cattle industry depends is a growing concern. Definitive and cost effective approaches however are far from clear. Even if sustainable grazing management practices were clearly identified, debate would continue as to who should pay for them.

All three state governments which cover the tropical savannas have started to put into place legislation which aims to regulate the practices of what is probably the most significant group of land managers in northern Australia. The future may see incentives for good management in the form of tax incentives or perhaps schemes such as carbon credits. However much work is needed to identify sustainable practices, and to clarify the workings of grazing ecology.

To this end pastoralists are being encouraged to monitor more closely the condition of their pasture and country, so that the impacts of certain management approaches can be measured, and long-term changes quantified. Producers in most regions have established best practice groups so that local knowledge and experience can be shared, and guidelines for sustainable grazing management established which can account for regional variations. The high rates of participation by producers in groups such as Landcare demonstrate the shifting focus from cattle condition to land condition.