The $avannaPlan-Beef$ense program is helping beef producers in the Queensland Gulf better manage the current environmental, climatic, profitability and debt challenges. Grass and water supplies are critical on many properties after two failed wet seasons across most of north-west Queensland. More than 75 per cent of Queensland remains drought declared and climate risk assessments indicate a low probability of drought breaking rain across the state this coming summer. Although there has been a spike in the cattle market since August (2014) prices have eased during November. The $avannaPlan-Beef$ense client profiles show profitability has been is decline since 2009 and mean debt per business in the Northern Gulf is in excess of $3.8M. Profitability issues and debt servicing pressures impact directly on stocking rates and grazing land management across the region, with many producers running unsustainable numbers or delaying their destocking strategies. The $avannaPlan-Beef$ense delivery team constantly promotes the importance of matching stocking rates to the long-term carrying capacity of country and existing water infrastructure development.
The DAFF–NGRMG $avannaPlan Program has been in place for a decade across the northern Gulf region. The program has been gaining momentum across north-west Queensland via a partnership with SGC since 2011. The Beef$ense business analysis component was introduced across both regions in July 2013. Collectively the $avannaPlan-Beef$ense and Infrastructure Mapping programs have engaged 58 beef businesses since June 2013, covering an area in excess of 1.39 million hectares and including approximately 154,000 head of cattle.
To meet the current financial challenges extensive beef producers need to be skilled across all facets of the business including resource management, herd productivity, family communication and financial management. The $avannaPlan-Beef$ense Program is a seamless on-property service that integrates infrastructure and land type mapping, grazing management, stocking rates, herd productivity and business analysis. Gulf producers remain enthusiastic, with a steady stream of new customers enrolling in the program and high demand from existing participants for follow-up services. The largest client has in excess of $30M in assets while the asset base for the smaller clients is around $2M.
In terms of delivery the $avannaPlan-Beef$ense Program includes a suite of engagement and extension techniques to build the prosperity and sustainability of the beef industry in the NG and SG. Methods include Programmed Learning (training packages), Information Access (field days/forums), Consultant/Mentor (one on one), On-property Demonstrations, Producer Groups and On-line Learning. Field days and training packages improve producer awareness, knowledge and confidence while Demonstrations and One-on-One delivery focuses on changing management practices. Ongoing support and mentoring ensures $avannaPlan-Beef$ense achieves sustainable, production and economic outcomes in extensive grazing areas.
In light of the current “tough times” the producer response to information forums has been encouraging with good industry participation at the Georgetown, Whitewater, Lanes Creek, Mareeba and Hughenden producer workshops. The $avannaPlan project team continues to provide technical advice/assistance to the NGRMG and SGC as required in relation to land management, technical assessment of on-ground land management/conservation projects, regional NRM planning, enterprise productivity and broader beef industry issues (e.g. natural disaster recovery, drought, marketing/live export, disease outbreaks, bushfires, vegetation management, industry viability, debt loads and regional RD&E priorities).