Agricultural production systems
Property size in the agricultural production regions varies widely in response to rainfall and land capability.
Lower rainfall areas have significantly larger properties with generally lower quality pastures resulting in low carrying capacity.
The total herd size in the agricultural region in 2010/11 was approximately 1.2m with more than 55% of the herd in breeder enterprises.
Herd size for stand-alone commercial beef operations in the agricultural region ranges from 500–5000 head.
The main breeds used in this region are predominantly Bos taurus including both British and European breeds and their crosses.
Angus is one of the most popular breeds while Hereford, Murray Grey, Shorthorn, Charolais, Simmental and Limousin are also widely found.
Calving generally takes place between February and August with most calves being sold from December to February as yearlings (10-12 months of age).
Most cow/calf producers sell through either direct contract with processors, live exporters and feedlotters or at the local saleyards.
Over the past 10–15 years there has been a broadening of the feed base in the agricultural region, with the inclusion of new pasture and forage systems to complement traditional annual subterranean clover and ryegrass-based pastures.
Species are strategically matched to soil and climatic conditions to maximise fodder production.
The most significant change is an increase in the use of perennial pasture species and the greater utilisation of out-of-season rainfall allowing longer grazing opportunities.
Productive perennial pastures reduce the need for supplementary feeding during the autumn feed gap typical of Mediterranean climates, in addition they have increased production from poorer sandy soil types that are unsuitable for cropping.
Valuable forage species include kikuyu, tagasaste, lucerne, panic and Rhodes grass.
Profitable producers tend to have a lower cost of production and generate higher revenue.
The higher revenue has been generated through producing more kilograms of beef per hectare per mm of rainfall rather than achieving a higher price per kilogram.
Benchmarking data has shown that efficient pasture utilisation is a key to producing more beef at a lower cost. The top 25% of beef producers are producing 50-60kg more beef per hectare than the average (210kg/ha (liveweight)).