Tropical Savannas CRC > Research > CRC Research 2001-2008 > Pastoral > Beef industry Best Practice

Beef industry Best Practice

Leader: Stephen Tapsall, Tropical Savannas CRC, CDU, Darwin

Full Title: North Australian beef industry natural resource management Best Practice Project
Project 2.2.1

Northern environmental management strategies | Regions, groups and individuals | Application of research | Future directions | Project team

Northern environmental management strategies

Like many other primary industries, the northern beef industry is keen to demonstrate its environmental credentials by promoting industry standards.

The unique circumstances of this industry however, such as remote location, extensive scale of operations, and limited documentation of the effects of different management strategies on the natural resource base; most current Environmental Management Systems (EMS) style approaches have merit but limited direct application.

Despite limited formal documentation however, many northern Australian beef producers do have an in-depth understanding of the general principles of good natural resource management and with that have developed effective practices and processes for applying them in their local context.

This project works in partnership with industry groups and TS–CRC researchers to identify and promote both the general principles and regionally specific practices of best practice natural resource management.

It uses the Best Practice Process (a tried and tested extension process in the beef industry, though usually focusing on production and economic performance), and be informed by TS–CRC knowledge of critical aspects of landscape health.

Once ‘Best Practices’ for a number of regions have been documented and formally agreed to by industry, they will form the basis for an industry code of practice. They could also become a fundamental element of progressing toward an EMS, should individual pastoral operations or groups wish to pursue this avenue. 

By providing transparent and consistent documentation on natural resource management in this unique region of Australia, it will not only provide environmental credibility to the industry but more importantly further promote significant environmental awareness and stewardship.

Regions, groups and individuals

The project has received strong interest and offers of support from industry in a number of regions, however initially four regions were selected.  These regions are:

  • Cape River Management Group, (part of the Dalrymple Landcare Group) near Charters Towers, Queensland
  • Northern Gulf Resource Management Group around Georgetown and Einasleigh, Queensland
  • Victoria River District Conservation Association,  western Northern Territory
  • Sturt Plateau Best Practice Group, near Katherine, Northern Territory

It is important to note that these groups and their members are the core source of data collection that is only available through their ongoing commitment of providing time, resources and knowledge to the project.

Each region nominated a series of stations that were recognised as doing good work and/or being representative for the region.  From this list at least 6 stations undertake informal interviews that varies in length from half a day to 3 days, with the average being one day.   The interviews are informal to allow for free expression of the producer, to use their language on their property.  It has not been uncommon for the researcher to clean out troughs, help repair fences or be involved in drafting cattle.  This not only gives the researcher opportunities to see how the station functions and what management systems are implemented, but also allows the producer to show first hand what they are trying to achieve with their natural resources, without confusion of language and terminologies.

So far there has been 30 stations visited across northern Australia, with over 20 of those stations have been interviewed and/or had multiple visits this year.  In addition 12 regional industry meetings have been undertaken with industry and community. Consultation to this stage could be considered extensive and therefore expensive but with active involvement, enthusiasm and effort from industry the expense could only be seen as a sound investment with what is appearing to be very positive returns.

Application of research

Significant synthesis of data collection across the whole project is still to come, however, small elements were developed for demonstration to the groups during 2002–3 but show the value of this work already.

One was a draft for the Sturt Plateau Best Practice Group where knowledge was collected and issues clarified. The information was useful in assisting the group to articulate their concerns to responsible agencies regarding use and management of water-point infrastructure on stations in their region.

This articulation of long-held local knowledge of their current practices provided a platform for mutual understanding in which the agency and the Best Practice Group are able to discuss the issues.

On a smaller scale, it was common for station managers to request their staff to be included in discussions. Managers recognised that discussions were an effective way of clearly verbalising and articulating the NRM goals for their property—an occasion rarely presented to them.

It was also a way for staff and managers to compare management techniques in a non-confrontational (between staff and manager) setting. This approach also had the advantage of being pro-active rather than instructing staff reactively during times of wildfires, floods, droughts and weed infestations.

While this form of information transfer occurs in some form on corporate grazing operations, it is rarely undertaken on family operations. Several managers found it useful for their strategic property development as well as further encouraging NRM work on their station.

Future directions

Preliminary working drafts of NRM Best Practice descriptions were prepared for all four regions. These working documents stimulated discussions and active involvement from industry that has guided the modification of the NRM Best Practice documentation. 

Best practices ‘producers perspectives’ will be taken and written from the interviews for each region for the regional groups to view and provide comment.  When finalised and agreement is achieved, best practices documented will be presented as a regionally based codes of practice that will be supported with information and a series of NRM practice options that the regional groups refer to when reviewing the code in future years.

Project team

Stephen Tapsall, TS–CRC
Peter Jacklyn, TS–CRC
Nth Qld NABRC Regional Committee, NABRC
Central Aus. NABRC Regional Committee, NABRC
Kimberley NABRC Regional Committee, NABRC (includes members from WAPGA)
Katherine NABRC Regional Committee, NABRC (includes members from NTCA)
Dionne CLMA
Noeline Gross & Christine Saunders NGRMGI
Jann Crase Northern Woodlands and Wetland Campaign
Chris Devonport, CDU


Mr Stephen Tapsall
Project Leader

Mobile: 0407 107 924

PO Box 5681

grazier and windmill



Station manager in the Cape River catchment Queensland, appreciates more than just healthy cattle on his property.

“My station hand and I each have our favourite vegetation which we like to see thriving. We often have words because we end up doing so much extra work to protect both of our favourite types of vegetation.

“We do not do it for the cattle and definitely not for the profitability of the business, it is just because we like it being there and we like working in a natural environment.”
Photo: Stephen Tapsall


Mr Stephen Tapsall
Project Leader

Mobile: 0407 107 924

PO Box 5681