Northern Beef Futures

Backgrounding beef for benefit

DAFWA NBF Market Analysts Roger Verbrugge (far right) and Dale Miles (centre) with Brooke Forsyth and other members of the Mingenew Irwin Group

The Department of Agriculture and Food’s Northern Beef Futures (NBF) project is collaborating with industry groups to evaluate returns of backgrounding cattle.

Backgrounding is the practice of moving cattle from a breeding property to a secondary property to grow-out cattle to a specific weight to suit a target market.

By backgrounding cattle, pastoralists can gain access to higher-value markets and turn-off cattle at times of the year when cattle prices may be higher, but stations may be inaccessible by road due to weather conditions.

The Mingenew Irwin Group’s North South Beef Alliance (NSBA) project, supported by the department’s Agriculture Sciences Research & Development fund, aims to increase the number of cattle headed south for fattening and solidify the supply chain from northern pastoralists to southern backgrounders.

NBF Market Analyst Roger Verbrugge said that backgrounding cattle has the potential to open up more market options, including live exports, and entry to feedlots or South West-based meat processors.

Boxed beef markets have a range of different specifications which could provide pastoralists an alternative market option which can be accessed through backgrounding.

NSBA spokesperson Brooke Forsyth said that under the alliance, various arrangements were available for pastoralists including retained ownership of cattle and payment of backgrounding fees based on weight gain, including a fee per kilogram or profit share arrangement on kilograms added.

The NSBA project is developing a repeatable, quality controlled production system which reduces management risk for the backgrounder and provides a production management and oversight function for the pastoralist.

The Alliance expects the first intake of cattle from the pastoral regions to take place in May 2017. For further information, contact Brooke Forsyth on 0487 281 007.

The department’s NBF project has developed a backgrounding model to illustrate the economics of backgrounding northern cattle in the southern areas of WA.

Mr Verbrugge said a prototype of the model is available which will enable producers to input data specific to their property to see the return from a north-south alliance system under different conditions and using different cattle specifications.

The prototype, which he presented at the North South Beef Alliance field day held in September, received significant interest from producers.

For more information contact Roger Verbrugge, DAFWA NBF Market Analyst on +61 (0)8 9780 6166 or email