Beef cattle


币游注册Australia is considered one of the world’s most efficient producers of beef cattle and is the world’s third largest exporter of beef. Beef is the third most widely consumed meat in the world, after pork and poultry. The United States, Brazil, and China are the world’s largest consumers of beef and India, Brazil, Australia and the United States are the world’s largest exporters of beef.

Facts and figures

  • Australia’s national cattle herd stood averages 25 million head, of which 11.5 million were beef cows and heifers. These cattle were run on over 47,000 cattle properties across Australia
  • Australia produces around 2 million tonnes of beef and veal of which 68% is exported to around 77 countries at a value of over AU$7 billion
  • Australia is the world’s seventh largest beef producer, producing 3% of the world’s beef supply and is the third largest beef exporter
  • Australia’s largest beef export market is Japan, followed by the USA and South Korea

Production Status

币游注册Beef cattle are produced in all states and territories of Australia. Queensland is the major producer of beef cattle with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting 2016 figures as: 10.5 million head of cattle in Queensland; 5 million in New South Wales; 3.5 million in Victoria; 2.2 million in Northern Territory; 2 million in Western Australia; 1 million in South Australia; and 600,000 in Tasmania.

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Map of current and potential growing regions

币游注册  showing the regions where cattle are produced in Australia.


币游注册Beef cattle can be grown and produced in both dry sub tropical and temperate regions of Australia – as well as arid central Australia. They are not produced in the desert areas such as the Great Sandy Desert, the Gibson Desert, the Tanami Desert and Simpson’s Desert. Different breeds are suited to different environments.


Under Australian conditions, beef cattle are almost never housed. However, in summer months, access to shade is very important, especially in hotter regions. Equally, in colder regions, access to shelter (e.g. tree wind breaks) is important in winter months.

Feed requirements

Beef cattle in Australia are primarily grass fed for the majority of their life and so managing feed requirements is about the efficient production of pasture, and then the conversion of that pasture into meat. About one third of Australian cattle are eventually ‘finished’ in feedlots where they are fed a largely grain-based diet from 70 up to 360 days until they meet the specifications for a particular market.

币游注册As a simple guide, a cow needs between 2% and 3% of its liveweight as dry matter (DM) intake per day, but this varies depending on a range of factors such as liveweight and whether growing or maintaining weight, energy concentration of the feed, whether pregnant or lactating and weather conditions. Information on methods to increase stocking rates and how to adopt a plant growth-based approach to grazing management can be found in Meat and Livestock Australia’s . In the dry season when pasture quality declines, dry matter intake can be increased by providing additional protein or urea based supplements.

Water is also critical and again daily water requirements depend on a variety of factors, especially moisture content of pastures, size of the beast, environmental conditions and status (e.g. lactating). The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries suggests the following  (litres/day):

币游注册Lactating cows

– grassland

– saltbush




Young stock  25–50
Dry stock (400 kg)  35–80

For further detailed information on feed requirements and pasture management for beef cattle refer to Meat & Livestock Australia’s ; ; ; and state departments of agriculture websites such as  and .

Breeds and breeding

币游注册In Australia there are more than 30 different breeds of cattle suitable for beef production and breed selection depends largely on the climate of the region in which the cattle will be grown.

In the tropical regions of Northern Australia the Bos indicus breeds are used as they are resistant to cattle ticks and are better adapted to the high temperatures. Brahman cattle, one of the most common of the Bos indicus币游注册, have short, light coloured coats to reflect the sun and black skin that protects them from sunburn. They have loose skin and extra sweat glands to keep cool. The tropical breeds first came from Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean region of southern Europe.

In Southern Australia the Bos taurus币游注册 breeds are used in the temperate climate as they mature quickly and have a rapid growth rate. The Angus and Hereford are two of the most common of the temperate breeds produced in Australia. The temperate breeds originally came from the cool climate areas of Europe, in particular Britain.

币游注册There are also some breeds that are bred to produce a special type of meat for a particular market, such as Wagyu beef which is highly regarded in the Japanese market and, increasingly, domestically.

Some of the main Bos indicus币游注册 breeds are:

  • Belmont Red – developed in Queensland, Australia in 1968.
  • Brahman – originate from the USA they calve easily, milk well and are very protective of their young.
  • Brangus – developed from Brahman and Angus. They have reasonable heat and tick tolerance, are medium sized, average to late maturity and yield a carcase without excess fat.
  • Braford – a Hereford and Brahman cross that are heat resistant, relatively tick tolerant and slightly later maturing than the British breeds. Produce good yearling and steer carcasees.
  • Charbray – A Charolais and Brahman cross animal that produces a high muscled lean carcase.
  • Droughtmaster – developed in Queensland and are a combination of Brahman, Shorthorn, with some mixture of Red Poll and Hereford.
  • Santa Gertrudis – originate from the USA, have a maternal/rotational/terminal place in cross breeding.

Some of the main Bos taurus币游注册 breeds are:

  • Angus – suited to vealer, steer and bullock production or maternal/rotational place in cross breeding.
  • Hereford – suited to vealer, steer and bullock production or maternal/rotation place in cross breeding.
  • Murray Grey – suited to vealer, steer and bullock production or maternal/rotational place in cross breeding.
  • Shorthorn – suited to vealer, steer and bullock production or maternal/rotational place in crossbreeding.