R&D outcomes help to manage phosphorus deficiencies in northern beef herds

Beef Central, 05/06/2020

FOR many producers in northern Australia, phosphorus (P) deficiency is a serious nutritional issue for cattle herds and can cause major losses in productivity and profitability.

To help northern beef producers identify and combat P deficiency in their herds, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has developed a new brochure ‘Why do cattle need phosphorus? A guide for northern beef producers’.

The easy to read, eight-page brochure includes advice on how to identify a P deficiency, what the impact is, and how to develop a P supplementation plan on extensive grazing properties.

Image source MLA.

MLA Program Manager – Research & Development Grassfed Beef, Dr Nigel Tomkins, said some beef producers may not realise their herd is P deficient and may not be aware of the benefits of P supplementation.

“Cattle need P for almost every vital function of the body. It’s used for building bones and teeth; metabolising fat, carbohydrates and protein; producing milk and influencing feed intake,” Dr Tomkins said.

“Deficiencies often arise in northern  production systems because most Australian soils have lower available soil P compared with southern Australia. This means there is often insufficient P in the pasture to meet animal requirements.

“The cattle that have the highest P requirements are growing stock, late-pregnant heifers and cows, and lactating cows.”

Dr Tomkins said the new brochure contains the latest research findings into P and highlights the benefits of supplementing cattle with P.

“The brochure summarises the key points of the second edition of the longstanding MLA Manual ‘Phosphorus management of beef cattle in northern Australia’, published in 2012,” Dr Tomkins said.

“MLA has placed a high level of importance on P research over the years. Supplementation throughout the year to animals that need P the most has been proven to boost productivity and reproductive performance in northern beef herds.

“Several trials have demonstrated the benefits of P intake including a 15–30% increase in weaning rates, potentially 6–12% increase in birth weights, up to 130 kilogram increases in breeder cow live weights, and significant improvements in in breeder survival.”

For more information on phosphorus and to download a copy of ‘Why do cattle need phosphorus? A guide for northern beef producers’, visit


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