While it is difficult to generalise about such a complex
industry, the prospects for pastoral enterprises seem reasonably
bright. However there are very definite exceptions to this outlook
in certain regions of the tropical savannas.
The sustainability of properties in some parts of North East
Queensland for example is questionable, and producers are having to
amalgamate with other properties in order to stay viable.
Properties in some parts of the Gulf region and Cape York are also
marginally productive, and owners are participating in off-farm
employment simply to stay afloat.
While some may see this as an acceptable option allowing the
maintenance of a rural lifestyle, properties and land condition
will decline if managers spend too much of their working time off
property. In contrast to areas in North East Queensland where
property sizes may be too small, those in Cape York and the Gulf
region are arguably too large, with running costs outstripping
Interlinked with economic viability is the long-term ecological
sustainability of the industry. Managing the natural resources upon
which the beef cattle industry depends is a growing concern.
Definitive and cost effective approaches however are far from
clear. Even if sustainable grazing management practices were
clearly identified, debate would continue as to who should pay for
All three state governments which cover the tropical savannas
have started to put into place legislation which aims to regulate
the practices of what is probably the most significant group of
land managers in northern Australia. The future may see incentives
for good management in the form of tax incentives or perhaps
schemes such as carbon credits. However much work is needed to
identify sustainable practices, and to clarify the workings of
To this end pastoralists are being encouraged to monitor more
closely the condition of their pasture and country, so that the
impacts of certain management approaches can be measured, and
long-term changes quantified. Producers in most regions have
established best practice groups so that local knowledge and
experience can be shared, and guidelines for sustainable grazing
management established which can account for regional variations.
The high rates of participation by producers in groups such as
Landcare demonstrate the shifting focus from cattle condition to