Australia’s 20 largest regions for cattle population

Beef Central, 01/09/2017


WHILE drought has stemmed some of the longer-term trend towards Australia’s beef herd shifting north, Queensland retains its status as Australia’s beef powerhouse, accounting for more than twice as many cattle as next largest state, New South Wales.

Meat & Livestock Australia recently put together a map of Australia’s beef herd, broke down by 53 Natural Resource Management regions, based on the ABS 2015-16 Agricultural Census.*

It shows that Queensland (10.6 million head at June 2016) included seven of the top ten NRM regions for beef numbers, and eight of the top 20. Largest, at more than 2.64 million head, was Fitzroy, followed by the entire Northern Territory (a single region under NRM boundaries) at 2.23 million; Burdekin 1.3m; Border Rivers/Maranoa/Balonne at 1.2m; and Desert Channels 1.11m head.

As the accompanying map and table shows, New South Wales (cattle population of 5 million head) included six of the top 20 NRM region populations – the largest being the Central West region with 705,000 head.

Victoria (3.5 million head) accounted for three of the top 20 NRM regions, including Glenelg/Hopkins at number 9, with 800,000 cattle.

After the Northern Territory, the next largest state was Western Australia (2 million), which included the enormous Rangelands NRM region, occupying about 80pc of the state, accounting for 1.11m head. South Australia (1.1 million head) accounted for only one of the top 20 NRM regions – South East, in position 15, with just over 607,000 head. Tasmania’s cattle population of 650,000 head, was concentrated in the North (303,000 head) and Northwest (301,000 head) regions.

Click this link to access the full map of cattle distributions across Australia.

* ABS has changed its collection method for the 2015-16 Agricultural Census, excluding businesses with an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations of less than $40,000. The implications are discussed in this earlier Beef Central article.


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  1. Muhammad Subkhan SIP, 02/06/2021

    So Amazing Fantastic the Australian Cattle Industry!!!

  2. Martin Gomez, 04/09/2017

    Wonder how many are brahmans and brahman derivatives. Good to see how this reads in 25 years time when the world is hotter,

  3. Eion John McAllister, 03/09/2017

    As indicated in previous publication about the ABS simply not including potentially up to 2 million cattle from the count of the beef herd by their statistical filtering:those phantom cattle are around the volume of the cattle populations of the NT, or WA, and considerably more than the cattle numbers in either SA or Tasmania. Can you imagine the outcry if any of those states were simply left off the cattle count.

  4. George Willows, 02/09/2017

    As these regions vary so vastly in size, this seems a fairly pointless exercise.

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