New research partnership targets northern beef industry

Beef Central, 31/08/2020

A strategic research partnership to address breeder efficiency in Northern Australia has been launched, with the target of delivering at least $20 million in net benefits a year to northern beef enterprises by 2027.

Northern Breeding Business (NB2) is a seven-year on-farm program developed by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) in association with the North Australia Beef Research Council (NABRC), aimed at increasing calf survival and breeder herd efficiency across the northern beef industry.

It will address the three main threats to the northern beef industry – calf loss, low profitability and low levels of adoption of proven management practices – through an adoption-focused program which brings together research findings gathered from key research projects over the years.

MLA General Manager, Research, Development and Adoption, Michael Crowley, said NB2 will soon begin recruiting northern producers to participate in on-farm research, development, extension and adoption (RDE&A) activities in line with the priorities that have come out of the NABRC consultation process.

“Calf mortality and poor reproductive performance have a major impact on reproductive efficiency and profitability for the northern beef industry. Past levy-funded activities have delivered an understanding of these issues and of best management practices, but the uptake of these practices has remained low,” Mr Crowley said.

“NB2 will promote adoption to directly assist producers in managing measurable improvements in breeder herd efficiency to optimise production within individual enterprises.

“NB2 intends to deliver a 5% increase in weaning rate, a 1% decrease in herd mortality rate and a 10kg increase in sale weight of cattle at the same age, while operating at a level of long-term, sustainable production and profit.

“These benefits will come from the delivery of extension and adoption initiatives under the three pillars of herd management, feedbase and environment.

“The cost-benefit ratio for the NB2 program has been calculated as a total increase in income across a minimum of 250 herds of at least $20 million over seven years, which equates to a 5:1 return on investment.”

Mr Crowley said NB2 aligned with MLA’s focus on delivering programs of work as part of MLA’s Strategic Plan 2025.

“The initiative for establishing NB2 came out of MLA’s regional consultation framework,” Mr Crowley said.

“As part of MLA’s 2019-20 investment call, expressions of interest were called from research organisations and individuals to form the partnership.”

A request for tender for preliminary proposals to address breeder herd efficiency and managing calf wastage for northern production systems and a MLA preliminary proposal template are available to download from the MLA website.

Preliminary proposals must be received by MLA before 11.59pm (NSW time) Monday, 14 September 2020.

Producers interested in participating in NB2 can contact Nigel Tomkins, MLA Program Manager – Grassfed Beef Productivity, p: 0437 632 816, e:


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  1. John A. Mohr-Bell, 01/09/2020

    Sounds like spending more money on what has already been researched, but either through bad dissemination or unconvincing results has had a ‘low uptake’.
    Surely the ‘three main threats to the northern beef industry’ are all to do with #3, ‘low levels of adoption of proven management practices’!!??
    I hope by 2027 we will be shown how the extra $ 20 million per year has been achieved.

    • Dr Lee Fitzpatrick, NABRC Chairman, 01/09/2020

      The devil is in the detail, John. The Northern Breeding Business strategic partnership is an ‘rdE&A’ program with the focus clearly on Extension and Adoption. The productivity/profitability goals are modest at an individual enterprise level and easily achieved by effective adoption of well proven technology and management practices. However, when scaled up across the northern industry they are quite significant.

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