THE imperative of implementing strategies in northern beef production, so as to strengthen both profitability and the preservation of natural assets, has been highlighted by a new report from 2014 Nuffield Scholar, Michael Lyons.
Michael and wife, Michelle, manage well-known Charters Towers district property Wambiana Station, which has been held by the Lyons family for more than 100 years. The enterprise now encompasses breeding and selling bulls, growing out steers and trading cattle, along with hosting school and university students from Australia and overseas for educational camps.
It was Michael's extensive and long-running observation of the northern cattle industry, and its struggle to achieve profitability over the past decade, that inspired him to seek global strategies to help restore strength to the sector through his scholarship, funded by Meat and Livestock Australia.
His research is a prime example of the topics in focus at this year's Nuffield National Conference being held in Darwin, from September 19 to 21. The event will provide a national forum for a range of exceptional speakers and sessions, with a particular emphasis on unlocking the potential of agriculture in Northern Australia.
Attendees will hear from a variety of Nuffield Scholars like Michael, who have spent the past two years fine-tuning their research on areas such as infrastructure development, economic management, human resourcing, connectivity and, most notably, resource protection in the region.
Michael said his commitment to work with nature led him to further refine his investigation to exploring holistic business strategies applicable to the northern production region.
"Our family has owned Wambiana since 1912, so we have been the custodians of this land for over a century,” Michael said.
"It is a responsibility we take seriously and hence we believe it is important for our business to be both economically profitable and ecologically sustainable.
"Achieving profitability in the northern beef industry, in which we operate, has been challenging for many producers and where there is no profit there is usually also no sustainability - the land and pastures are over-utilised and the people in the business become over-worked.
"I was keen to look at what other people, from similar environments around the world were doing to work with nature for profitable futures.
"My report highlights the importance of looking at the environment, economics and people as a 'whole' as opposed to isolated 'parts' when making decisions for your family and grazing business.”
This work took Michael to New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates in search of graziers and farmers who are registering profits through the implementation of forward-thinking and innovative production techniques and decision making.
"One of the key profit drivers in the northern beef industry is herd fertility as adapted, fertile cattle perform well with limited inputs, which is good for business and good for the environment,” Michael said.
Michael suggests developing strategies for selecting cattle that are adapted to northern conditions.
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