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The Workboot Series covers Australia’s major primary industries. The Series is available from the Kondinin Group PO Box 913 Cloverdale WA 6985 Telephone: (08) 9478 3343 © KONDININ GROUP 2002 and © Meat and Livestock Australia 2002 (text only)

AUTHOR: Kim Field ILLUSTRATOR: Rod Waller DESIGN: Megan Hele RESEARCH: AgKnowledge

The Workboot Series – Beef is proudly supported by:

COVER: Annie Dziadulewicz at the Kargotich family’s Dirk Brook Poll Hereford Stud. Photograph by Beth Field. First published in 2002 by Kondinin Group Inc. Printed by Scott Print, Western Australia. National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication. Field, Kim, 1968- . Beef. Includes index. For primary and secondary students. ISBN 1 876068 24 8 1. Beef industry - Australia - Juvenile literature. 2. Cattle trade - Australia - Juvenile literature. 3. Beef cattle - Australia - Juvenile literature. I. Waller, Rod, 1942- . II. Title. (Series : Workboot series ; no. 9). 338.176213

The Workboot Series


Beth Field

Written by Kim Field Illustrated by Rod Waller Published by the Kondinin Group







Research Flow Chart



The Source



The Producer



The Product



The Consumer

Page 46

The Environment

Page 56


Page 66


Page 68


What is beef? Beef is the name given to meat that comes from cattle. Beef is a nutritious food and is an important part of a balanced diet. It provides protein, B group vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc. Every day, people in countries around the world eat Australian beef. Australia is the world's biggest exporter of beef.

Beth Field

DID Beef is the most popular meat YOU in Australia. KNOW? Beef is the name given to meat that comes from cattle

Meat and Livestock Australia

Beth Field

Beef provides valuable nutrients

Consumers can choose from a variety of cuts


Flow Chart

THE FIVE AREAS OF The Source What is beef? Are there different types of cattle? Where do beef cattle live? How do cows produce calves? What do beef cattle eat? How quickly do beef cattle grow? Do beef cattle get sick?

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6 7 10 11 13 14 15

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16 17 18 19 20 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 31 32 33 34 35

The Producer When did Australia’s beef cattle industry begin? What is a stock route? Who produces beef? What do children do on a cattle property? How does cattle production vary around Australia? How do producers breed cattle? When is the best time for calving? How much does a good bull cost? What is artificial insemination? What is mustering? Why do cattle need to be marked? How much do cattle eat? What is a feedlot? How do producers care for cattle? What is CATTLECARE? When are cattle sold? Are cattle farms a safe place to work? What other work has to be done?


Flow Chart

BEEF PRODUCTION The Product Who buys cattle from producers? What are some of the different ways to sell cattle? What is an abattoir? What is the meat inspection service? What other products are made from cattle? Who buys Australian beef? How are live cattle exported? Who works in the cattle industry?

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36 37 38 40 41 43 44 45

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46 48 49 50 52 54 55

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56 57 60 61 62 63 65

The Consumer Why is beef good for you? What are cholesterol and saturated fats? What is Meat Standards Australia? Where can you buy beef? What is food safety? How do you cook beef? What can you make with beef?

The Environment Does beef production affect the environment? How do cattle producers protect the environment? How do producers dispose of waste products? Why are dung beetles important? What is global warming? What are chemical residues? How does the weather affect cattle production?


The Source

The Source Beef cattle Beef cattle are animals produced on farms and grazing properties to provide meat for people to eat. Cattle are produced throughout Australia, from isolated pastoral regions in the tropical north to intensive agricultural areas in the south.

The beef cattle industry provides healthy, safe food for us to eat, and earns valuable income for Australia. The main product from the cattle industry is meat for people to eat but other important by-products of the industry include leather, toiletries, medical items, oils and fertiliser.

Nicole Baxter

The Australian cattle herd has more than 24 million cattle and produces meat for domestic and export markets. It is sometimes called the 'beef cattle industry' so it is not confused with the dairy industry where cows are bred for milk production.

Beef cattle are produced throughout Australia

Meat and Livestock Australia

Farm Weekly

Some cattle are exported overseas


Beef is high in protein and iron

Differences between Bos taurus and Bos indicus

There are more than 60 different pure breeds of beef cattle in Australia and many more recognised crossbreeds. These can be divided into two main groups: temperate breeds and tropical breeds. Temperate breeds (Bos taurus) are mainly found in southern areas of Australia, while tropical breeds (Bos indicus) are usually found in northern areas because they are better adapted to high temperatures. They also have some resistance to cattle ticks which are found in northern areas of Australia.

Bos taurus

Bos indicus


short and erect

long and drooping


absent, very small

well developed and fleshy


relatively tight

very loose


longer and thick

fine and short


shorter and turned down or hornless (polled)

longer and turned up or hornless (polled)



deep bellow


wide barrel and hindquarters

narrow throughout

Meat and Livestock Australia

You can easily tell the two groups apart because they have very different features. Kondinin Group

DID About two per cent of Australia's YOU beef herd is found on dairy farms. KNOW? Dairy properties only need cows that can produce milk, so male calves are sold for veal and cows that no longer produce milk are sold for beef. Some dairy farmers raise male calves and sell them as bull beef when they are about 2–3 years old.

Bos taurus cattle

The Source

Cattle breeds in Australia

Bos indicus cattle

Beth Field

Jill Frawley

Crossbred cattle are produced by mating cattle from two or more different breeds



Murray Grey Shorthorn

Limousin Simmental




European-derived breeds


DID Wagyu are the national cattle breed YOU of Japan. The first Wagyu arrived KNOW? in Australia in 1990. More producers are breeding Wagyu for live export of Wagyu-cross cattle to Japan. Wagyu have high levels of marbling – a trait prized by the Japanese.



European breeds include Bazadaise, Belgian Blue, Blonde D'Aquitaine, Braunvieh, Charolais, Chianina, Gelbvieh, Limousin, Maine-Anjou, Mandalong Special, Marchigiana, Piedmontese, Romagnola, Salers and Simmental.

Red Angus

British breeds include Angus, Beef Shorthorn, Belted Galloway, Devon, Galloway, Hereford, Highland, Lincoln Red, Murray Grey, Poll Hereford, Red Angus, Red Poll, Shorthorn and South Devon.

Blonde D’Aquitaine

European breeds mature later and have larger frames. They grow quickly and produce a lot of meat with more muscle and less fat than British breeds.


British breeds mature earlier than European breeds and produce high quality meat with extra fat cover. They are very fertile.

Poll Hereford

Early settlers brought British breeds to Australia to use for meat and milk. European breeds were brought to Australia in the late 1960s and 1970s.

South Devon

British-derived breeds Belted Galloway

Temperate breeds (Bos taurus) were developed from cattle that originated in middle and northern Europe. They are known as British and European breeds.


Temperate breeds of cattle

Mandalong Special

The Source

What are temperate breeds?

What is crossbreeding? Crossbreeding means mating animals from different breeds. Crossbred animals are often hardier than purebred animals and produce carcases with more meat. DID Australia is a world leader in many YOU areas of livestock research such as KNOW? animal reproduction. The Belmont Red was developed in Australia by the CSIRO and is made up of half Africander, quarter Hereford and quarter Shorthorn.


Santa Gertrudis

Red Sindhi Brangus

Braford Droughtmaster

Crossbreeding of temperate and tropical breeds has produced new breeds that are suited to the tropical climate of northern Australia such as the Belmont Red, Braford, Brangus, Charbray and Droughtmaster.

Cross-bred tropical breeds

Belmont Red

Some tropical breeds such as the Santa Gertrudis, Brahman, Red Sindhi, Sahiwal and Africander were imported especially for use in the hot, tropical areas of northern Australia.


These cattle are suited to production in the north of Australia where it is very hot. They have short, glossy, light-coloured coats that reflect the sun's rays, and black skin which is more resistant to sunburn and eye cancer. They have a lot of sweat glands and their loose skin helps them to keep cool. It also lets them shake off insects!


Purebred tropical breeds


Tropical breeds (Bos indicus) come from cattle that originated from southern Asia, areas of the Mediterranean and Africa.


Tropical breeds of cattle

The Source

What are tropical breeds?

An example of crossbreeding

+ Brahman bull

= Hereford cow



The Source

Where are cattle found in Australia?

What makes up a cattle herd?

Beef cattle are located in all States of Australia. Tropical breeds of cattle are mainly produced in the northern half of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. Temperate breeds of cattle are mainly produced in the southwest of Western Australia, the southeast of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.

A cattle herd is made up of animals of different ages and stages of development. These include:

Distribution of cattle in Australia

Tropical breeds Temperate breeds


Temperate and tropical breeds Number of cattle f Tropic o

C a p ri c or n

1.5 million 1.8 million

Tropics Perth Sub-tropics Temperate Arid and semi-arid


1.0 million



10.1 million 5.6 million

Calves – Young animals (male and female) that are less than one year old and are still dependent on their mother. Weaners – Animals (male and female) that have recently been separated from their mothers. Vealers – Weaned males or females that are intended for the veal market. Heifers – Young female animals (up to 2-3 years old) that have not calved or are rearing their first calf. Steers – Young castrated male animals. Cows – Mature females, usually older than two years, that are used for breeding and have reared a calf. Bulls – Mature males that have not been castrated and are used for breeding or fattening for live export. Bullocks – Older castrated male animals.

Sydney 2.1 million Melbourne 0.5 million Hobart

DID The most common breeds of cattle in YOU Australia are Hereford, which KNOW? accounts for 19 per cent of cattle and Brahman, which accounts for 18%.

The Source


When do cattle start to breed?

Heifers can usually calve at 24 months of age

Bulls can breed from about 18 months of age

Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association

The age at which cattle can reproduce depends on their breed, the availability and quality of food and the climate. British breeds usually mature earlier than European breeds and Bos indicus cattle.

Beth Field

Kondinin Group

Reproduction is the process by which animals produce offspring. With cattle, bulls mate with heifers or cows to produce calves. Sperm from the bull must fertilise an egg from the cow so that a foetus can grow in the uterus of the cow.

Bulls usually mature at 12–14 months of age and can usually breed from about 18 months of age.

How long are cows pregnant?

Cows are pregnant for about 283 days

Bos indicus cattle can have longer gestations

Cows usually have only one calf at a time, although like humans, they may sometimes have twins or even triplets. Under the right conditions cows may have up to eight calves during their lifetime. Bos indicus cattle live longer and can have up to 16 calves under good conditions.

DID The oldest Brahman cow in Australia YOU was 27 years old. KNOW?

Beth Field

The gestation period in cows is about 283 days, but this can range from 273 to 291 days. This is the same as a human baby. Bos indicus cattle and some European breeds can have longer gestation periods.

Beth Field

Females usually mature at 12 months of age and, with the right feed, Bos taurus heifers can usually calve at 24 months. Bos indicus heifers usually mature later and calve when they are about three years old. This is also due to the harsher environmental conditions of northern Australia. The quality of the feed means cows do not grow as quickly and take longer to reach a body condition where they can become pregnant and carry a calf.

Cows usually have one calf at a time


The Source

What happens when a calf is born?

The first milk a calf drinks is called colostrum

How long does a calf stay with its mother? Calves stay with their mothers until they are weaned, or separated from them. This is usually when calves are between 6–10 months old. They are then called weaners. Weaning allows the mothers to put on weight so they can have another calf. Producing milk for a calf uses lots of energy and, depending on the climate and available feed, cows can become thin and tired from feeding their calf. Cows are mated to have another calf while they still have a calf with them.

Stephan Miechel

A pregnant cow

Calves can stand 15 minutes after being born

Kondinin Group

Unlike human babies who take about a year to learn to walk, calves can stand up about 15 minutes after they are born. As soon as they can stand, they start drinking milk from their mother. The first milk a cow produces is important because it contains antibodies that protect the calf against disease. This milk is called colostrum, and is produced for about the first three days after the calf is born. Calves continue to drink their mother's milk for several months, but also learn to eat grass and other feed as they get older.

Kondinin Group

Cows know when they are going to calve and find a sheltered place in the paddock, away from other animals, to give birth.

Calves learn to eat grass as they get older

John and Jo Searle

Calves are weaned after 6 to 10 months


The Source

What do cattle eat? Cattle are herbivorous, which means they feed on plants. This includes grasses, legumes, hay, silage and grain.

Beth Field

Beth Field

Like other animals, cattle need nutrients from their food such as protein, carbohydrates, minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, and vitamins. They must receive the right amount of these for them to grow.

What happens to the food?

Cattle feed on plants such as grass

Plants provide a range of nutrients

Cattle are ruminants, which means they have four stomachs and chew cud. Each stomach performs a different job when digesting food, although the first three stomachs of calves do not work while they are drinking milk.

About an hour after eating, the stomach muscles push the plant material back to the mouth to be chewed again. This material is called cud. The animal chews the cud 40 to 60 times to further break down the food. This is when most of the energy is extracted.

Adult cattle eat very quickly. They chew their food lightly to mix it with saliva and then swallow it. The food goes into the first stomach or rumen (roo-men), where digestive juices and microbes begin to break it down.

The ground-up food passes into the second stomach or reticulum (re-tick-youlum) which stores liquid, then into the third stomach or omasum (oh-may-sum), where folds of muscle catch the food and squeeze it to remove the liquid.

The food then moves into the fourth stomach or abomasum (ab-oh-may-sum), and is mixed and churned before being passed into the intestine. Here the nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream and transported around the body to help the animal grow.

DID Cows produce about 100 litres of YOU saliva and chew about 41,630 KNOW? times a day.

How food is processed in a cow’s stomach

1 2

3 4

Reticulum Second stomach

Omasum Third stomach

Abomasum Fourth stomach

Beth Field

Rumen First stomach


The Source


How much do cattle eat? Cattle need different amounts and types of food depending on their stage of growth and the environmental conditions. A cow may eat 100kg of green grass a day or 16kg of grain while a steer may eat 65kg of green grass a day or 11kg of grain.

How fast do cattle grow?

For example, a Simmental Hereford cross calf raised in the south-west of Western Australia might weigh 30–50kg at birth. When it is weaned at 8–10 months of age it weighs about 280–330kg. After 90 days in a feedlot it weighs 400–430kg. The cow will reach full maturity at about three years and weigh 450–600kg.

Beth Field

How quickly an animal grows depends on the quality of the food it eats. Different foods provide different amounts of energy. If the food eaten provides more energy than an animal needs for daily activities like walking and producing milk, the animal will grow. The growth rate also depends on the animal's breed and environmental conditions.

Different cattle need different amounts and types of food depending on their stage of growth

When you were born, you probably weighed between 2.5–4kg. At 12 months of age you might have weighed 8–12kg. As an adult, you might weigh 45–100kg, depending on your height, age and build. Scott Boyle

DID An average beast can drink up to YOU 35 litres of water per day. That’s KNOW? about 140 glasses of water! Grain provides a lot of energy


The Source



Department of Agriculture, Western Australia

Foot-and-mouth disease Kondinin Group

Close-up of a tick

Lice are an irritating and common pest of cattle

What illnesses can cattle get?

Leptospirosis causes illness and death in calves and miscarriage in older cattle. Vibriosis causes infertility in affected cows.

The illnesses cattle get depend on the environment and climate in which they live.

Other important diseases are blackleg, pulpy kidney and tetanus, grass tetany and milk fever. Blackleg is a bacterial infection in muscle tissues. Pulpy kidney and tetanus are conditions caused by a toxin produced by bacteria. Grass tetany is a deficiency of magnesium in the blood and milk fever is a deficiency of calcium in the blood.

In northern Australia, cattle ticks and buffalo flies can be a problem. These bite cattle to suck blood from them and inject small parasites that can make cattle sick. Occasionally animals get a viral disease called ephemeral fever. If you have ever had the flu you will have some idea of how they feel. Protein and phosphorus deficiencies can cause malnutrition. This is the single biggest cause of cattle loss in Australia. The most serious infectious diseases in cattle in southern Australia are Leptospirosis and Vibriosis.

Bloat is also a dangerous illness that can kill cattle. When cattle eat too much rich pasture, gas remains in their stomach and foams. This causes the stomach to swell so much that the animal can't breathe. Pests include internal parasites such as worms that live in the digestive tract of cattle and extract nutrients. Affected animals lose their condition (weight).

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals such as cattle. It causes fever followed by blisters on the feet and mouth. Australia is free of foot-and-mouth disease.

BSE Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (bo-vine spunj-ee-form en-sef-a-lowpath-ee) or BSE is commonly known as 'mad cow disease'. It causes the central nervous system in cattle to slowly deteriorate and eventually kills the animal. The disease is found in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe and some cases have been reported in other countries. DID There has never been a case of YOU 'mad cow disease' in Australia. KNOW? We are a Category 1 for freedom from BSE, which means BSE is highly unlikely. Only a few countries in the world have this status.


The Producer

Beth Field

The Countryman

Cattle production in the 1940s

The Producer History Australia's cattle industry began in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip brought six cows, a bull and a bull-calf with him on the First Fleet's voyage from England to Botany Bay.

Originally no distinction was made between beef and dairy cattle, but as inland grass plains were discovered, beef producers drove their cattle into the outback while dairy farmers stayed along the coast.


When gold fever faded, producers were left with lots of cattle so research into beef export markets began. Fresh beef could be supplied to local communities but had to be salted, smoked or canned to be transported over long distances. The opening of freezing works in the 1880s opened up many domestic and export markets for fresh Australian beef and by the 1950s Australia had become the world's largest beef exporter. In the past fifty years, Australia's beef cattle industry has grown to a herd of more than 24 million cattle, and we are the largest exporter of beef and live cattle.

The Australian Cattle Dog was established as a pure breed in 1890 after cattle-owners and dog-breeders experimented to produce a dog suited to Australian conditions. It is bred from dingo crossed with blue smooth Highland collie, then crossed with Black and Tan Kelpie and is the only pure breed of cattle dog in the world. The Australian stock horse was also bred specifically for Australia's cattle industry.

Yvonne and Rick Feeney

Australia's cattle herd gradually grew as early settlers learned to manage the new environment. By the 1820s there were more than 54,000 cattle in the colony.

Gold rushes in the 1850s brought many people to Australia to make their fortune. Numbers of cattle grew during this time to cater for the increase in population. By the 1860s there were about four million cattle.

The Australian Cattle Dog

Pioneers of the cattle industry

Stockman’s Hall of Fame

Michael Patrick (Patsy) Durack (1865-1950) was the son of an Irish farmer who emigrated to New South Wales. In 1882 he took a Patsy Durack herd of 7000 cattle and 200 horses almost 5000km across the top of Australia, from Queensland to the Ord River in the north of Western Australia. The journey took more than two years. The Durack family eventually controlled 15,500 square kilometres of northern Australia.

John Teague

Stockman’s Hall of Fame

Sir Sidney Kidman (1857-1935) was born in Adelaide. He is often described as Australia's Cattle King. He bought his Sidney Kidman first station in 1886 and by 1899, he owned more than 600,000 cattle and more than 28,000 square kilometres of land which stretched across five states.

The Producer

Stockman’s Hall of Fame

Nathaniel Buchanan (1826-1901) was the first to introduce large numbers of cattle into the Northern Territory and the north-west of Nathaniel Buchanan Western Australia. He opened up stock routes throughout northern Australia and into Victoria. This led to the establishment of many of the large inland cattle stations.

Droving is sometimes used today to take cattle to market and expand their grazing

Stock routes Moving cattle over long distances was common in the 19th century. This was called droving. Contract drovers were usually paid 30 shillings a week plus food and could be on the road for three months or more at a time. Droving is still used today to take cattle to market and to expand their grazing, especially during drought. This occurs mainly in central southern Queensland, central New South Wales and Victoria. Cattle travel at about 8km per day along well-established stock routes, and there are camps, watering holes and yards at regular intervals along the way. Today's main roads and highways mainly follow the same routes as the old droves. For this reason, many old roads are still known as the 'long paddock'.

DID The Birdsville Track was one of three YOU main stock routes in Australia. The KNOW? track runs from Birdsville in southwest Queensland to Marree in South Australia. It was a difficult route, passing through desert and flooded creeks, and there were several occasions in which drovers lost entire mobs of cattle in sandstorms.


Who produces beef?

The Producer

Cattle producers raise beef cattle to be sold for meat. The raising of animals is called livestock production. Producers look after the cattle so they grow and produce good quality meat. This involves managing the animals' breeding, food and health.

There are approximately 49,000 cattle properties in Australia. These range from large corporate owned grazing enterprises in northern Australia to small family farms in the south. Many families do most of the work themselves, while others rely on stockmen, jackaroos and jillaroos to look after the cattle.

Beth Field

Producers must also decide how and when to sell their cattle. Different buyers have different requirements and in many cases, animals must be a certain age, weight and body condition before they can be sold.

Southern cattle production

Stephan Miechel

Northern cattle production


What do children do on a beef property? Life on a cattle station

During holidays children can help with the mustering. They camp in the bush so they don't have to travel long distances back to the homestead. They cook on a campfire and sleep in swags under the stars.

Some children participate in school of the air. The children use two-way radios and telephones to talk to their teachers. In areas where there are good telephone lines, children can use email and the internet to help with their schooling.

Life on a cattle farm

Children look after orphaned calves. They teach the calves to drink, and look after them until they can be weaned. An average calf drinks up to two litres of milk twice a day, but they can also be fed on high-protein calf meals. Any changes to the diet are made slowly so calves don’t get tummy-aches.

Helping with cattle work

Beth Field

Stephan Miechel

After primary school some children also go to boarding school but they usually go home a lot more often during the year. During their holidays they may work with cattle and exhibit them at agricultural shows.

Sarah Burnham

Most children who live on cattle farms in southern Australia go to school just like children in the city. Many have to catch a school bus and travel long distances. During their spare time, they learn to work with cattle and often have special jobs.

After primary school, many children go away to a boarding school in a large country town or city where they live at the school. They may only see their parents on school holidays.

Doing lessons in school of the air

Looking after orphaned or poddy calves

The Producer

Camping out during the muster

Beth Field

Stephan Miechel

Life on a cattle station in northern Australia is very different to life on a cattle farm in southern areas. On many cattle stations children don't go to school. Teachers at a distance education centre send lessons to children by mail. The children complete the lessons at home with their parents or a supervisor and return them for correcting.

Exhibiting cattle at shows


There are two main ways cattle are produced in Australia; northern and southern cattle production systems. There are similarities in how the cattle are managed but also important differences. Northern cattle production occurs in north Queensland, the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia, and in the Northern Territory. This is also called extensive pastoralism. In these sparse areas, the properties are very large and are called stations. Some are the size of small European countries, and run up to 50,000 cattle. Animals feed on native vegetation and there may be only one animal for every 50 hectares of land. One hectare is about the size of half an AFL football oval. Most properties are specialist beef producers.


Mustering cattle in the north

Mark Casey

Southern cattle production occurs throughout New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, southern Western Australia and south-east Queensland. This is also called intensive pastoralism. In these areas cattle are run on smaller areas of land called farms, and there may be as many as three animals per hectare. A large part of the business involves improving pastures and managing breeding. Beef produced on pastures is also called 'grass-fed' beef. Southern beef producers often operate other farming enterprises such as sheep, crops, dairy and horticulture.

Stephan Miechel

The Producer

Cattle production systems in Australia

Moving cattle on a southern beef property

Calendar of events for northern and southern cattle production JAN




Wet season (November - March) — 1200mm of rain




Dry season (April - November) — little rainfall

• First muster starts • Weaning

• Fencing repairs • Maintenance work • Mating period





Wet season (November - March) — 1200mm of rain

• Second muster • Calving • Cattle are culled and sold to abattoirs • Fencing, fixing yards • Checking water supplies • General maintenance

Southern production



• Plant crops to feed cattle


• Wean calves • Remaining calves • Calving begins • Weigh calves drenched • Weigh remaining weaners and prepare for sale • Sell heavier • Feed extra grain • Remaining calves as vealers weaners sold

Spring calving Autumn calving Note: Cattle producers vary the timing of these jobs according to climate and district practices


• Wean calves

• Plant pasture crops • Sell weaners • Calves are born

• Calf marking • Bulls put in with cows for mating

• Backlining for lice and ticks • Bulls taken out of cow herd

• Bulls put in with cows

• Calf marking • Hay making

• Bulls taken out of cow herd

• Pasture spraying • Hay making

• Wean calves

The Producer

Northern production


A comparison of northern and southern Source: ABARE 2000 beef cattle production Proportion of national beef production Total number of beef cattle Total number of properties Percentage of properties corporate owned Averages per property

18% 6,272,464 1391 5.3%

82% 14,646,415 47,210 0.3%

Average area operated Average number of beef cattle Average area of land per beast Beef cattle sold per year Beef cows mated per year Beef live export number per year

60,055ha 2578 22ha 583 1050 139

4164ha 314 8ha 138 128 2

Note: The Tropic of Capricorn is used to separate northern and southern production areas.

Many jobs are done all year round

Stephan Miechel


Stephan Miechel


Mustering takes place twice a year


The Producer

Breeding Cattle producers breed cows and bulls to produce new animals for the beef market. Through breeding, producers aim to produce cattle that will grow quickly and produce tender meat. Characteristics of the parents are passed onto calves, so it is important producers choose the best cows and bulls for breeding.

Many producers breed their own cattle. They sell the steers but keep the heifers as part of the breeding herd.

Beth Field

The cattle selected for breeding have to suit the climate and conditions of the cattle property. Producers take into account their water supplies, available pasture and how the cattle will fit in with other activities on the property. Some breeds of cattle are better suited to a particular type of property or market than others. For example, a Brahman crossbreed is better suited to northern areas because it is adapted to the climate.

Producers carefully select animals for breeding

The heifers replace older cows that have come to the end of their breeding life. These are known as cull cows. Some cattle businesses specialise in producing young cattle for other businesses to buy and finish for market. These people are known as store producers or backgrounders.


Stephan Miechel

There are also cattle studs that produce purebred cattle and register them with a breed society. They breed superior animals through performance testing, artificial insemination and embryo transfer. Cattle producers buy these stud bulls and cows so they can improve the standard of their own herd.

Temperament is an important trait

The Producer

Beth Field

In southern production systems bulls are put in with cows for two to three months

When does calving occur? In southern cattle production systems, bulls are put in the same paddock as the cows so they can mate over a 2–3 month period. This means calving occurs over a small period of time nine months later, and the animals grow and are ready for market at about the same time. Producers usually plan for calving to take place in spring or autumn, and allow one bull for every 30–40 cows.

Calves born between March and May have to survive dry conditions. The quality of the feed is not as good and animals do not grow as quickly. Cows that calve during this time can lose condition because of the extra energy needed to feed a calf during the dry season. This can make it difficult for them to have a calf the next season. Some producers do pregnancy tests to see if cows are in calf (pregnant) when cattle are mustered in April and May. Cows not in calf are culled and unwanted cows and heifers spayed so they won't get pregnant. This is a painless operation. They are then fattened for sale and sent to an abattoir.

Kondinin Group

In northern cattle production systems, bulls are often left with the cows to mate throughout the year. It is too difficult to find them and take them out of the paddock after mating because of the large areas over which they graze. This means there is no defined breeding season and calves can be born throughout the year.

The best time for calving in northern systems is after November. The wet season provides better conditions and more feed for calves to grow and cows to regain body condition so they can have another calf the following season.

Some producers pregnancy test their cattle


The Producer

Beth Field

Bulls pass characteristics to their calves


Producers choose bulls with qualities that match the breeding needs of their business

Selecting bulls When selecting a bull, producers look at physical characteristics such as breed, muscling and temperament. They look at pedigrees and make sure the bull is able to serve a cow.

Producers can buy bulls from cattle breeding sales or directly from studs. When producers want to buy a new bull they research pedigrees and study animals carefully to choose ones with qualities that match the breeding needs of their business.

Producers also study the estimated breeding values (EBVs) of bulls they want to buy. These tell the producer about a range of genetic traits a bull can pass onto his offspring like easy births, rapid growth and good meat yield.

DID The most money paid for a bull was YOU $114,000. This was for a Poll KNOW? Hereford bull in Doonbiddy.

Many buyers will attend a sale with a particular type of bull in mind. They select bulls physically that suit their requirements, and use the EBV information to make a final decision.

Stephan Miechel

The price of bulls varies a lot, and one may cost between a few thousand dollars and more than ten thousand dollars. This can be as much as it costs to buy a small car. They cost this much because a bull can produce lots of calves and therefore pass on his qualities to many animals. Bulls are also valuable because their semen can be collected and frozen for sale.

The Countryman

How valuable is a good bull?

Pedigrees provide information about animals

What is artificial insemination?

AI makes it possible for one bull's semen to be used in many more cows than the bull can physically serve (mate with). This allows characteristics of good bulls to be passed down to hundreds of animals, and is a good way to improve the quality of the herd.

Embryo transfer

Technicians inject a donor cow with hormones to make her produce a lot of eggs. These are fertilised through mating or AI. About seven days later the uterus of the cow is flushed to remove the fertilised embryos. These are transplanted into recipient cows or frozen for later use. The embryos grow into calves inside the recipient cows and the cows give birth and rear the calves as if they were their own.

Beth Field

Injection with hormones to produce lots of eggs

Stephan Miechel

Embryo transfer is a procedure used to increase the number of calves produced by the best cows in the herd. This is also a good way to quickly improve the herd.

In Australia about 1.5 million cows in the beef and dairy industries are inseminated each year. AI is more common in the stud cattle and dairy industries than with commercial beef herds.

Cows can be artificially inseminated

The Producer

Artificial insemination (AI) is a process where a person places a bull’s semen in a cow to fertilise an egg. Veterinarians or people trained in AI perform this process.

Embryos can be transferred to recipient cows

Embryo transfer costs a lot of money and must be managed carefully, so it is limited mainly to stud cattle, the dairy industry and a few commercial beef herds. Non-surgically

Removal and classification of embryos Surgically

Storage of embryos

Transfer of embryos to recipient cows surgically or non-surgically


Stock management Southern cattle production involves intensive day-to-day management of the cattle. The animals are kept in smaller paddocks, and producers use motorbikes, horses or farm utes and cattle dogs to check them regularly and move them to other paddocks or into yards. Cattle are moved into yards at different times during the year so calves can be marked, dehorned, vaccinated and weaned, and the male calves castrated. Producers may keep some of the best male calves for breeding and these are not castrated. Producers are responsible for the welfare of their animals and take care when performing these procedures.

Helicopters are used to gather cattle

Mustering is done on horseback where the land is rough while motorbikes are used on flatter, more open country. Helicopters and small planes are used to spot cattle from the air and gather large mobs together for stock people on horses to drive to yards.

Stephan Miechel

Most cattle work in northern systems is done during the dry season, from April to September. A team of people is employed to muster the cattle at the beginning of the dry season. Mustering means rounding up the cattle and bringing them into the closest yards, and is a very big job. The calves are branded, vaccinated and weaned, and the male calves are castrated, just like in southern systems. Cows may also be pregnancy tested or sold at this time.

Stephan Miechel


Stock people on horses bring cattle into yards

Mustering in northern systems

A second muster is done later in the dry season to brand and wean calves that were missed in the first muster.

Cattle are checked regularly on southern farms

Farm Weekly

Stephan Miechel

The Producer

Southern systems

Yardwork includes branding and weaning

Cattle may also be mustered by trapping them at watering points. Gateways are set up so cattle can get into a small paddock where there is food and water, but cannot get back out until they are released. Stations are very large so musters are often the only opportunity for producers to inspect their cattle.

On stations and some farms, branding is also used for identification. Branding leaves a permanent mark on the cattle hide. Each producer has a unique brand so they can identify their stock.

Identification Cattle are marked as a way of identifying when they were born and who owns them.

Branding provides permanent identification

Ear marking involves taking small cuts out of the soft part of the animal's ear. Each producer has their own registered ear mark.

Nicole Baxter

Microchips store information about cattle

Many stud cattle producers tattoo their animals to identify them. A special ink dye is used to make a permanent image just under the skin, usually on the inside of the ear.

National Livestock Identification Scheme The National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) is a system for permanently identifying cattle. Cattle receive an eartag or rumen bolus that contains an electronically numbered microchip. The number can be linked to information about the animal from birth to slaughter such as where it was raised, illnesses, chemical residues, Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading and hide information.

The Producer

Stephan Miechel

The most common ways of identifying cattle are ear tags and ear marks. Ear tags are large plastic or rubber tags that are attached to the soft part of an animal's ear, just like when people have their ears pierced. The tags are different colours to show the year the animal was born, and have numbers and letters on them to identify the individual animal.

Stephan Miechel INSET of tattoo: Beth Field

The information is recorded electronically and held on a national database. This means beef can be traced back to the farm where the animal was raised. This information helps control diseases and trace chemical residue contamination. It also helps control duffing (stealing). DID The European Union requires beef YOU imports to be fully traceable. This KNOW? means a family in Europe can buy a piece of Australian beef and identify the property from where it came.

Earmarks are a common form of identification


Nutrition and growth

Southern production

Feed is an important part of beef cattle production. What cattle eat affects how quickly they put on weight and whether they gain fat or muscle. This determines how soon each animal is ready to market. The breed of cattle also makes a difference to how they gain weight.

Rainfall in southern production areas is usually reliable, so producers can grow pasture plants to provide good quality food for cattle.

Cattle need to eat about 2–3% of their weight in dry matter each day. Feed sources are given a dry matter value, which is a measure of how much dry material is in the food. It allows producers to calculate how much food cattle need and to manage their growth. Producers use a combination of feed sources so cattle receive the nutrients they need to grow. Silage consists of about 20–25% dry matter, grain is about 90% dry matter and green pastures are about 15% dry matter. This means a cow weighing 500kg would need to eat 10kg of dry matter each day.


Pasture needs nutrients from the soil to grow, and producers test the soil to see what nutrients need to be added. They apply fertiliser to supply these nutrients and use herbicides to control weeds.

Northern production There are two main seasons in the north; the wet season from October to March and the dry season from April to September. Rains during the wet season help plants to grow. This provides cattle with green feed to eat so they grow and put on weight. The plants are not as nutritious as the pastures grown in southern systems, and cattle have to forage over large areas to find enough to eat.

During the summer months the pasture dries off. During this time, producers may give the cattle extra feed such as hay and silage so cattle stay healthy and continue to grow. Silage is made from crops or pastures that are cut when green and then baled or stored in large pits.


The Producer

Beth Field

Natural vegetation, cultivated pastures, grain, hay and silage are all food sources for cattle


Work out how many kilograms of silage, grain and pasture will provide 10kg of dry matter.

Feedlots are not as common in northern areas because of the heat and the lack of suitable cattle and grain.

Feedlot production Feedlots are intensive farms where cattle are kept in yards and fed a grain-based diet and hay or silage. The quality and amount of food is carefully managed to control growth and produce beef with a uniform carcase, fat content and colour. Beef produced this way is called 'grain-fed beef'.

DID The largest feedlot in Australia is in YOU Queensland and can hold up to KNOW? 60,000 cattle.

The Producer

Scott Boyle

Feedlots are intensive farms where cattle are kept in yards and fed a grain-based diet

Feedlot operators breed their own cattle to put in the feedlot or they buy cattle from other producers. Some feedlots offer a custom feeding service where producers pay to have their cattle 'finished' in the feedlot to meet market requirements. Some cattle producers have feedlots on their property as well as running a pasture-based fattening enterprise. Feedlot operators make sure the animals and environment are properly cared for and the quality of beef is maintained. Feedlots that produce meat for export must be accredited (approved) under the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme.

Feedlots have operated in Australia since the 1960s to finish cattle for market and provide a regular supply of consistent quality beef. This is not always possible when grazing cattle because feed quality depends on varying seasonal conditions.

Feedlots have increased since the 1980s

Beth Field

Kondinin Group

There are less than 600 accredited feedlots in Australia, which can hold up to 850,000 beef cattle. There are feedlots in every state. Most feedlots are in south-east Queensland and the Northern Tablelands and Riverina in New South Wales. These areas are close to cattle and feed sources.

Feed is carefully managed to control growth



Feeding the cattle is one of the most important jobs on a feedlot. Cattle are introduced gradually to the feed ration when they enter a feedlot because it is quite different from their usual diet. If cattle are introduced to grain too quickly they may get 'grain poisoning'. Cattle are fed once or twice a day and are given different rations of grain, hay and silage depending on market requirements. For example, Japanese people like their beef marbled, which means the fat is spread evenly through the meat. This is achieved by choosing breeds with marbling traits and changing the diet.

Other jobs Trained stock people check cattle every day to make sure they are healthy. If there are any sick animals, these are moved into a separate pen for treatment. Feedlot cattle can be weighed to check their growth rate. The cattle stand on a big set of scales and a cattle crush holds them still while their weight is recorded. Feedlot workers can also eartag cattle while in the crush and give them any treatments needed to look after their health.

Grain and other feed is stored in large silos and rations are accurately weighed and mixed. The rations are put into large troughs usually placed just outside the pens so cattle can reach the feed but not make it dirty. There is always water inside the pens.

DID Cattle are grainfed for 70–100 days YOU for the domestic market while cattle KNOW? for the top Japanese markets can be grainfed for up to 360 days.

Cattle are weighed to check their growth rate

Scott Boyle


Feed is placed in troughs outside pens

Stephan Miechel

Kondinin Group

Rations are recorded for quality assurance

Kondinin Group INSET of feed pellets: Beth Field

The Producer


Feedlot cattle are checked daily


Animal health is important to cattle producers. Cattle must be healthy if they are to grow well and meet market requirements. The people working on cattle properties are experienced in many areas of animal health and are usually trained to perform basic animal health tasks. For example, they vaccinate cattle to protect them from diseases such as tetanus. Cattle in northern Australia are also dipped (like a bath) to kill ticks. If there is ever a serious problem, a veterinarian may be called in to help.

Dipping cattle helps control ticks

Stephan Miechel

Animal health

Producers observe quarantine regulations. They monitor cattle and report any unusual signs of disease to their vet or stock inspector immediately. They also co-operate with any control measures put in place as they know how important it is to keep Australia disease-free.

Stephan Miechel

Stephan Miechel

Cattle are vaccinated to help prevent illness

It is important to observe quarantine laws because they protect valuable industries in Australia from pests and diseases found in overseas countries. A long-term outbreak of a disease such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Australia could destroy our cattle industry. Livestock with FMD must be destroyed. Australia would also lose its export markets for beef, live animals and animal products, and many people would lose their jobs, particularly in rural communities.

The Producer

Australia's cattle industry is free of the major cattle diseases found in other countries, like foot-and-mouth disease and mad cow disease. This is mainly due to the strict quarantine laws we have and because Australia is a large island with a natural sea barrier.

Farmers check cattle for any signs of disease

DID Australia has not had an incidence YOU of foot-and-mouth disease since KNOW? 1872 when a bull in Werribee was

infected through straw imported from the United Kingdom. At the time the disease did not spread because there weren’t as many cattle in Australia to spread the disease. Since then a range of quarantine systems have been introduced to protect Australia from foot-and-mouth disease.


Kondinin Group INSET: Sarah Burnham

The Producer

Other QA schemes Quality assurance schemes also guide the operation of feedlots, transport operators, saleyards and live cattle export. These set standards for operating procedures to make sure animals and the environment are properly cared for and to maintain the quality of beef during production and selling. Businesses are certified as quality assured if they meet the standards set by these schemes. This helps producers market their products and meet the demands of consumers for high quality beef that is produced safely and with consideration for the welfare of animals.

Cattle are moved quietly to prevent stress to the animals

Quality assurance schemes Quality assurance is a way of operating based on quality systems. There are many quality assurance schemes in the Australian beef industry. These set standards on a range of important issues to protect the cattle, the environment and consumer safety. Other QA schemes include:


✔ The National Feedlot Accreditation

The CATTLECARE programme sets quality standards for producers to reduce bruising, hide (skin) damage and chemical residues in cattle.


Assurance (NSQA) programme

✔ The Livestock Export Accreditation Tim Slater

The standards address issues such as animal welfare, safe chemical use, staff training, handling of animals, record keeping and transport.

Scheme (NFAS)

✔ The National Saleyards Quality

Records are an important tool for QA

Programme (LEAP)

✔ MSQA ✔ Truckcare

Cattle are transported to market or abattoirs using trucks

The Producer

Stephan Miechel INSET: Beth Field

Mark Casey

Fat scoring shows if cattle are ready to market

Marketing cattle When are cattle sold? Cattle are sold when they reach the age, weight and condition a market requires.

When cattle are ready to be sold trucks transport them from the property to saleyards, an abattoir or to a port to be shipped live to overseas markets. Some trucks have two or more trailers and can carry up to 150 cattle.

Stephan Miechel

How are cattle transported to market?

Kondinin Group

Producers weigh cattle to see if they are ready for market. They also use a system called fat scoring, where they feel or measure the fat cover at particular points on an animal and give it a score. Muscle scoring can be used also, where a score is given for the muscle development and shape of the animal.

A code of transport has rules for moving stock

Cattle must be given a certain amount of room

There are rules about loading and moving cattle so they don't get hurt or stressed and lose condition. If cattle are packed too tightly they may become hot and stressed. If there is too much room they may fall over, which causes stress and bruising. After every 36 hours of travel cattle must be given a 12–24 hour rest period. During this time animals are unloaded and given food, water and space to exercise and rest.

Tail tags are used to identify cattle during and after transport. Tail tags wrap around animals' tails and have a property identification number on them. If there are any problems with cattle, such as illness or chemical residues, the property from which they came can be traced. The cause of the problem can be identified and producers can take steps to make sure the problem doesn't occur again.


Farm safety


Cattle are large, strong animals and can hurt people if they are not handled correctly. It is important producers understand animal behaviour so they can work safely with them. For example, bulls can be aggressive during mating, and cows and heifers may charge if they have a calf with them.

Scott Boyle

The Producer

Cattle behaviour

People take care when handling machinery

Sometimes people can catch diseases from animals. Zoonoses is the name given to animal diseases that cause illness in people. Farm animals are a common source of infection and people most at risk are producers, abattoir workers, veterinarians, livestock handlers and animal laboratory workers. Vaccinating cattle can protect people who handle the cattle from zoonoses.

Working in yards



Producers design cattle yards carefully to ensure they are strong enough to hold the cattle and are safe for people to work in. They also must be safe for cattle to avoid bruising to the animals. When working in yards, it is important to be aware of where cattle are at all times.

People on cattle farms often use vehicles to move cattle, and machinery such as silage carts, hay grabs, tractors and bale feeders to feed the cattle. All machinery on farms can be dangerous and is out-ofbounds for children. Never play near tractors and other machinery or ride on the back of utes.

Many veterinary chemicals need to be kept cool. These are stored in a locked box in a fridge so people don't use them accidentally. Other chemicals are stored in locked sheds. Producers go to chemical handling courses and follow directions on the labels. Chemicals can be dangerous and it is important never to play with them.

Wear a safety helmet and leather boots with elastic sides when riding motor bikes or horses.

Stephan Miechel

Stephan Miechel

Good yard design prevents injury


People handle and store chemicals carefully

Record keeping

Other farm work There is a lot of other work to be done on a cattle property besides looking after cattle. For example, making hay and silage, maintaining fences, sheds and machinery, checking water supplies, replacing pipelines and upgrading roads. Farming is a business, and cattle producers manage the business as well as the day-to-day jobs on the farm. They often employ people such as livestock agents, veterinarians, accountants, agronomists and landcare advisers to help them plan and manage the business.

Producers access new information through rural radio, the internet, fax machines, media, television, industry bodies such as Meat and Livestock Australia, trade magazines and field days.

Stephan Miechel

Beth Field

Putting in a new water tank

An important part of management is keeping records. These provide information about how efficiently the farm is performing and help producers make decisions about growing, producing, selling and marketing their beef.

The Producer

Beth Field

Cutting hay for cattle feed

Farm records provide useful information

Types of records producers keep: Paddock records – pasture species

sown, fertilisers applied, stocking rates of cattle. Chemical records – spraying, veterinary chemical use, withholding periods. Climate information – rainfall, wind, daily temperature. Production information – yields from crops, kilograms of beef weaned per hectare. Animal records – bull-to-cow ratio, number of cows mated, calving percentages, birth weight, animal health and feed.


The Product Who buys cattle from producers? Producers can sell cattle to abattoirs to be processed in Australia for local and export markets or as live exports to be processed in other countries. They also sell cattle directly to other cattle producers or feedlots. Cattle can be sold by auction at saleyards, direct consignment or electronic auctions.

About 46% of cattle are sold through auctions at saleyards. Producers pay fees to sell their cattle at auction. Some producers also pay livestock agents a commission to sell their cattle. Agents are specialists who buy and sell livestock. Cattle are transported to saleyards where they are grouped in lots. The RSPCA and state agriculture department inspect cattle to make sure they are healthy and haven't been injured during transport.

Buyers inspect the groups of animals to see if there are any they want to buy. They can bid on the live weight of the


Most cattle are sold through auction at saleyards

cattle where they pay per kilogram, or on a per-head basis where they pay a certain amount for each animal. They must decide how much they are prepared to pay as cattle are sold to the bidder who offers the highest price. The types of buyers at saleyards depend on the type of sale. If it is a store sale, the cattle still need fattening and buyers are usually other producers and lot feeders. If it is a fat sale, the cattle are ready for slaughter and the buyers are usually retailers, wholesalers or abattoirs. There are also special sales for breeding cattle.

Beth Field

All cattle have a way bill and/or a tail tag that shows which property the cattle are from. Producers also complete a National Vendor Declaration form. This identifies treatments cattle have received and is used for traceback if any residues are found at slaughter.

Beth Field

The Product

Auction at saleyards

Sales may be a store sale or a fat sale

Direct consignment Direct consignment is where cattle are sold directly to a buyer without going to the saleyards. Buyers or agents visit cattle properties to inspect animals and discuss prices. If buyers are familiar with the animals, they may purchase them over the telephone or by fax or email.

Beth Field

Selling cattle by direct consignment reduces the number of times the cattle are handled and minimises stress to the animals.

Beth Field

Cattle can be sold directly to buyers on farm

On-line sales A number of companies use electronic networks where cattle are sold via a computer. Qualified people assess the cattle, and enter information about the animals' weight, age and gender on a computer. Buyers can make electronic bids for cattle at on-line auctions. Animals stay on the property until they are sold and are then transported straight to the buyer.

On-property auctions

Niche markets

Some producers hold auctions on their property. This gives buyers a chance to inspect the property and find out how cattle have been raised. These auctions are mainly held by stud producers.

Niche markets are small specialty markets with certain requirements. For example there is a niche market for beef grown organically, often to the restaurant trade. Some producers grow cattle especially for sale to these markets.

The Product

Many stud producers hold on-property auctions

Forward contract In a forward contract a producer agrees to fatten cattle to the weight and condition the buyer requires, by a certain time, for an agreed price. This is mainly used in the feedlot industry where the animals' growth rate can be more accurately controlled with specific amounts and types of food. DID Livestock agents group cattle into YOU lots so they are more likely to sell KNOW? well and meet buyers’ needs.



The Product

What is an abattoir? An abattoir is a 'factory' where cattle are processed into meat and meat by-products. Companies that own abattoirs buy cattle, process them and sell the meat, or charge a fee to process cattle for other companies. When cattle arrive at an abattoir they are unloaded from the truck into lots (groups) and placed in holding yards. They are given water but are not usually fed. All animals are inspected to make sure they are fit for processing.

How are cattle processed? The process of converting the animal to meat begins after slaughter and continues until there is only meat, fat and bone. The final product, called the carcase, is the most valuable part of the animal and contains all the meat. Skin and offal are also used for a range of products. Quality controls and inspections throughout the process make sure cattle are treated humanely and ensure the quality and safety of the products. These are supported by Federal Government regulations.

Greg Keating

After cattle have been sold there are many processing steps that take place before cattle products such as meat, leather and by-products reach shops. The processing and distribution of meat and by-products to consumers is called the meat industry.

Whole carcases in the chiller room Trimming


Branding and weighing


Process workers trim and prepare the carcase to a set standard. This includes removing any excess fat or bruising.

The carcase is graded for fat, age, sex and bruising according to AUS-MEAT standards.

The carcase is branded and weighed. A carcase usually weighs about 55% of the weight of the live animal. The carcase weight is used to calculate how much producers are paid.

The carcase is chilled in a large fridge. It is often cut in half (sides) and hung on large hooks that roll along rails on the roof.

Slaughter Cattle are slaughtered using the most advanced technology and humane techniques available.

Labelling and weighing

Beth Field


Skinning a carcase

Stephan Miechel

Tail tags are checked and information is entered into a computer and given to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).

Stephan Miechel

The cattle move down a narrow race and are stunned using a special device to make them unconscious. While unconscious, they are slaughtered according to approved methods and die instantly.

Branding a carcase

Transport and delivery of meat

There are Australian Standards and other procedures that must be followed during transport to make sure the meat is safe for humans to eat. For example, the surface temperature of the carcase must stay below 7째C.

Cutting into primal cuts in the boning room



Some beef is Meat Standards Australia (MSA) graded. MSA licensed abattoirs are checked regularly and samples taken from carcases for traceback.

Chilled carcases are sold as half or quarter carcases or cut into smaller pieces known as primal or retail cuts. This is called boning.

Butchers Large meat wholesalers or butchers mainly buy half and quarter carcases and do their own boning.

Packing BEEF


Meat for export markets is packed into large refrigerated boxes called containers. Trucks deliver these to a port or airport for transport overseas. Fresh chilled meat is usually exported by air while frozen meat is exported by air or sea.

Most beef for export is packed as boneless primal cuts and placed in cartons. Some cuts such as rump are individually wrapped. Chilled and frozen beef can also be packed in cryovac packaging.

Leonard Stewart

Kondinin Group

Scott Boyle

Packing primal cuts ready for sale

Packaged meat

The Product

The carcase is chilled carefully. If chilled too quickly, the muscle fibres contract and toughen. Meat that is properly chilled stays fresh longer and is more tender.

Greg Keating

Stephan Miechel

Cutting into half carcases

Meat must be kept chilled during transport and delivery. Refrigerated trucks are used to transport meat from abattoirs to butchers, supermarkets and other outlets within Australia. The meat may be transported as a hanging carcase or quarters, or packed in cartons depending on the buyer.

Aeroplanes deliver export meat


What is the meat inspection service?

AQIS inspects meat at abattoirs and other meat processing plants to make sure they meet the quarantine rules of importing countries. They also inspect and certify a range of other cattle products that are exported from Australia, such as cattle hides. This helps Australia's trade with other countries because our exports are recognised as being of a high standard. AQIS also checks imported foods and animals and plants coming into Australia. This helps keep diseases like foot-andmouth disease out of the country.

Inspecting carcases


Carcases are stamped after certification

Beth Field

Greg Keating INISET: Beth Field

Certified meat packaged ready for sale

Tagging meat allows for traceback

Beth Field

Beth Field

The Product

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) provides a national meat inspection service. This provides protection for consumers and assists Australia's trade with other countries.

Other types of processing Beef can be processed to make other products. Some of the more common processes include curing, drying, smoking, fermenting and canning.

Beef jerky is a type of dried beef

Salami is a fermented beef product



Drying removes water from meat and was commonly used before fridges and freezers were invented. Traditionally sun drying was used to remove water but now drying ovens are used. Dried beef products such as biltong and beef jerky are tough and chewy but have lots of flavour.

Fermenting is a process that uses special helpful bacteria. Fermenting processors must follow strict health guidelines so harmful bacteria do not find their way into the meat. Salami is a fermented meat product.

Canning Smoking

Canned meat is cooked and processed ready for consumers to heat and eat. Examples are corned beef, meatballs, meat stews and meat sauces for pasta.

Smoking is another traditional meat treating process. It dries out the surface of the meat and the meat absorbs the smoke flavours.

The Product

Curing was a common way to preserve meat before freezing became available. It is sometimes called corning. To cure meat, it is rubbed with salt or placed in a strong salt solution called brine. The salt removes moisture or water from the meat, which stops bacteria growing. This means the meat will last longer. Cured meats such as silverside often have a salty taste.

Beth Field

Beth Field


Beth Field

Silverside is a type of cured beef

Beth Field

DID Salting, smoking and canning were YOU traditional ways of preserving beef KNOW? for sailors to eat during long voyages at sea. Smoked beef


By-products A by-product is a secondary product made as a result of manufacturing the main product. Beef cattle are mainly processed for meat for human consumption, but many useful by-products are made from other parts of the carcase. We use many of these every day. Different parts of a beef carcase are used to make:

The Product

✔ general items such as glue, candles, photographic film, plastic, oils, lubricants, leather goods and fabrics for car upholstery.

Beth Field

✔ toiletries such as soap, cosmetics, deodorants, detergents, shaving cream and perfumes; and

Beth Field

✔ foods such as ice cream, marshmallows, jelly, pasta, chewing gum, shortening for cooking, oil, confectionery and industrial margarine; Leather goods


Some by-products are used for pharmaceutical items such as bandages and medical stitches. Insulin and adrenalin from cattle are used in the treatment of human illnesses such as diabetes and asthma.

The hides or skins from cattle production are also an important by-product. These are used to make a variety of leather products. The export of cattle hides makes more than $500 million income each year for Australia.

Beth Field


Australian exports of beef and live cattle

Canada 400







Thousand tonnes carcase weight Canada India Mexico Australia Russian Federation Argentina China Brazil European Union United States

Darwin Wyndham Broome Port Hedland

350 300 250 200




Middle East


Australia Townsville

Top ten world beef producing countries

Fremantle Adelaide

Australian exports of beef and veal


Canada United States of America Japan Republic of Korea Chinese Taipei Indonesia Philippines Malaysia and Singapore Hong Kong Other Europe Middle East Oceania Other




Malaysia Singapore

Top ten world beef and cattle exporters

Americas 0






Million tonnes carcase weight

Export of beef Australia is one of the world’s leading producers of cattle and the world's largest exporter of beef. Each year we produce about 2 million tonnes of beef, which is about 3.9% of the world's beef supply. We export about 65% of our total beef production, which makes up 22% of the world's total beef exports. These exports are valued at more than $3 billion.


South East Asia

The Product

Ukraine India Uruguay Argentina New Zealand Canada Brazil European Union United States Australia



United States of America


Hong Kong

Australian live cattle exports

Indonesia Japan Malaysia Philippines Egypt Other

Chinese Taipei Eygpt


Thousand 50 100 150 200 250 300


Ports from which cattle are exported

Australia's biggest export beef markets are Japan and the United States. Other important markets include Canada, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Philippines, Europe, Malaysia and Singapore.

DID 70 per cent of total Australian beef YOU production is from Queensland and KNOW? New South Wales.


Exporters are accredited under the Livestock Export Accreditation Program (LEAP). They must keep accurate records of each shipment of cattle, and are assessed to make sure they meet Australian livestock export standards.

What happens on a cattle ship? Trucks transport cattle from farms or feedlots to the port where the ship is held. At the port, government veterinarians inspect cattle to make sure they are healthy and free from disease. This is a quarantine regulation. Cattle that don't pass the inspection cannot be exported.

The Product

Farm Weekly

Cattle are shipped to more than 40 countries

Live cattle exports Australia is the leading exporter of live cattle in the world. Almost 900,000 live cattle were exported in 2000, earning almost $500 million for Australia. The live export industry has grown quickly because of demand for beef cattle by lot feeders in South-East Asia. There are also markets in the Middle East and North Africa.

Cattle are then loaded onto ships that are specially designed to carry them. A ship may carry up to 16,000 cattle at a time but most carry between 1000 and 3000 cattle. Every ship must follow regulations for transporting animals. Cattle travel in ventilated pens with straw or sawdust bedding. They are fed twice a day on feed pellets, chaff and hay and have lots of water to drink. Experienced stock workers check the cattle twice a day and move any upset or sick animals to a special pen for treatment.


Livestock Shipping Services

Livestock are shipped from 18 different Australian ports to more than 30 countries. The port at Darwin exports the highest number of live cattle.

Stephan Miechel

Many of Australia's northern cattle producing properties are closer to the South-East Asian markets than cities in southern Australia, and produce beef cattle specifically for these markets.

Cattle travel in ventilated pens

Shipping regulations ensure cattle welfare

Kondinin Group

Stephan Miechel

Stephan Miechel

Beth Field

If you're creative or like writing, you could work in advertising, marketing, graphic design, public relations or events management for agricultural companies. You could also be a journalist for rural newspapers or a reporter for rural television programmes.

If you want to work with animals, you could work on a cattle property or train to be a veterinarian. You could also work in animal health and welfare, for example the RSPCA, or in animal production, genetics and breeding.

Some people are good at making things. You could become an engineer and design meat processing equipment, animal housing, waste management systems, animal herding facilities and electronic herd identification devices.

The Product

The cattle industry provides work for many people. There are more than 100,000 people employed directly in the meat and livestock industry. Many more people are employed in businesses that serve the beef industry, such as transport, clerical, accounting and marketing companies.

Other people are curious and like to investigate. You might like to be an agricultural scientist with Departments of Agriculture, State Meat Authorities and farm organisations. Or you could be a food scientist and advise people about nutrition, food safety and food standards.

Stephan Miechel

If you like numbers, you could work in agribusinesses in accounting, banking, finance, insurance or commodity trading.

Farm Weekly

Beth Field

Megan Hele

Stephan Miechel

Who works in the beef cattle industry?

If you're good at analysing things, you could study economics and work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, providing market intelligence. Many people are very interested in looking after the environment. There are lots of jobs in this area such as natural resource management and landcare co-ordinators.


The Consumer Nutrition Beef is an important food because it provides a range of nutrients and energy to keep us healthy.

The healthy eating pyramid C

Eat small amounts

Oil, margarine, reduced-fat spreads, butter, sugar Eat moderately

Lean meat, eggs, fish, chicken (without skin), milk, yoghurt, cheese


Protein, which helps us grow and repair cells. Blood, muscles, skin, hair and nails are made from protein. Our bodies cannot make protein so we must get it in the food we eat. Vitamin B12, which helps maintain the nervous system and body cells. Iron, which enables red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. Iron also helps brain performance, particularly concentration and memory. Zinc, for a healthy immune system, healing of wounds, growth and development, and to help use carbohydrate and protein for energy.

We need to eat a balanced diet to stay healthy. This means we should eat a range of foods from each of the five food groups. Beef is part of the meat and protein group, and moderate amounts of these foods should be eaten. The Commonwealth Department of Health's Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends we eat 3–4 serves of red meat per week.

Eat most

Vegetables, dried peas, beans and lentils, cereals, bread, fruit, nuts The H ealthy Eating Pyram id, ad apted courte sy of th e Austr alian N utrition Found ation In c.

One serve of red meat equals

• 1/2 cup of lean mince or • two small chops or • two slices of roast meat or • 65-100g of cooked meat.

DID The average Australian eats about YOU 100g of beef per day or 36.5kg KNOW? per year.

Stephan Miechel

The Consumer

Beef provides the following nutrients:

Beef has many nutrients which keep us healthy


Beth Field

Athletes and females need more iron

Stephan Miechel

Red meat such as beef is an excellent source of iron

Iron helps the body carry oxygen in the blood and produce energy from food. Lean red meat is high in iron and the iron is easily absorbed by the body. Lean beef provides 2.2mg of iron per 100g of meat. Iron is very important for girls, women, athletes, vegetarians and elderly people. Women need 12–16mg of iron per day while men need 7mg. Girls and women need more iron because of menstruation, while pregnant women need extra iron for the developing baby.

People who donate blood or who exercise regularly may also need more iron. Vegetarians are people who choose to live on a diet with no meat. They must pay special attention to their diet to make sure they get enough iron. Other sources of iron include legumes, nuts and grains. Iron from plant foods is not absorbed as easily as iron from meats. Vitamin C, which is found in many fruits and vegetables, helps the body to absorb iron from these foods.

If iron levels are low, people can get tired easily, feel lethargic and find it hard to concentrate. They can also become anaemic and find it difficult to fight infection.

Elderly people often have smaller appetites and can have problems biting or chewing meat, so they must make sure they get enough iron.

DID Australians are the tenth highest YOU consumers of red meat in the world. KNOW?

The Consumer

Why is iron important?


David Sweet

Beth Field

Choosing lean cuts of beef with the ‘tick’ of approval helps us to consume less saturated fat

The Consumer

Beef and heart health Lean beef plays an important role in a healthy eating plan. Red meat such as beef is a good source of protein and energy, but some cuts are high in saturated fat. It is important to not eat too much of this type of fat to avoid high blood cholesterol.

What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found naturally in the cell walls of our body. The liver produces cholesterol and our blood carries it around our bodies. The amount of cholesterol in our blood is partly inherited and partly depends on our diet and physical activity. If our blood cholesterol is too high, the cholesterol can build up on the walls of blood vessels.


Trim fat from cuts of meat before cooking

This makes it harder for blood to flow through and can lead to a heart attack.

Saturated fats There are three main types of fat in food: saturated fat, monunsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Eating a high amount of saturated fat can raise our blood cholesterol. Saturated fat is found in fatty meat, milk, cheese, some processed foods like biscuits and some plant foods like coconut milk and coconut cream. Everybody, but especially people with high blood cholesterol levels, should try to reduce the amount of saturated fat in their diet. This includes choosing lean cuts of beef and trimming fat from meat before cooking. Most Australian red meat is lean and more than 22 cuts of beef have the Heart Foundation's ‘tick’ of approval.

DID Half the fats in lean meats are YOU healthy unsaturated fats. KNOW?

What should I look for in beef?

Basic beef cuts

Most Australian beef comes from animals that are 14 months to 3 years old. You can tell if beef is fresh by looking at the colour of the meat and the fat. The meat should be bright red, fresh and moist, while the fat should be white or a pale cream colour. Grain-finished beef has white fat while paddock-finished beef usually has pale cream fat. Beef also comes from cattle of other ages. Veal comes from animals that are up to six months old and is pale pink to light red in colour with little fat. Baby beef comes from 7–14 month old animals and has slightly more fat. Mature beef comes from animals more than four years old and is dark red in colour with creamy yellow fat.

What cuts of meat can I buy? Many cuts of meat are made from a beef carcase. Some of the different cuts of meat and the areas of the carcase they come from are shown in the diagram.

What is MSA?

Beth Field

MSA provides a guarantee of tenderness

Meat Standards Australia (MSA) is a grading system that predicts the tenderness of different cuts of beef when cooked using different methods. Retailers use this information to prepare and sell each cut in a way that will provide the best eating. MSA-graded beef is labelled with a grade and a cooking method.

The grades are tenderness guaranteed, premium tenderness and supreme tenderness. Cooking symbols include casserole or slow cook, stir fry, pan fry, grill, barbecue and oven roast. MSA grading means consumers don't need to know all the different cuts of beef. They can ask their butcher for a cut of meat based on how they want to cook it and price. An MSA logo on beef packages provides a guarantee of eating quality. If customers follow the recommended cooking method and are not happy with the eating quality of the meat, retailers will refund their money.

The Consumer

DID You can also buy organic beef. YOU This is beef that has been produced KNOW? without the use of any synthetic agricultural or veterinary chemicals, and is generally more expensive.


The Consumer



Beef products are sold to customers at butchers, supermarkets and delicatessens. This is called retailing. Beef products are also sold ready-to-eat at restaurants and fast-food outlets. This is known as the food-service industry.

A butcher is a person who specialises in dealing with meat. Butchers buy beef as a carcase or in cartons, cut it into different 'cuts' and sell them to consumers. Some of the cuts you might see are fillet, rump, T-bone, sirloin, chuck, porterhouse and blade steak. You can also buy bones to make soup or just to feed your pets. Most butchers also prepare a variety of ready-to-cook meals such as rissoles, sausages, marinated steak and even fully prepared stir-fries complete with vegetables. These are popular because they save time and preparation at home.

Butchers also prepare many ready-to-go meals

David Sweet

Butchers display meat in refrigerated cases and serve you over the counter. If there is something you want that you cannot see displayed, butchers will often try to arrange it for you. Butchers often give you helpful advice on how to cook the meat, and some have recipe cards that you can take to try at home.

They prepare different ‘cuts’ of meat

Beth Field

Butchers buy carcases or sides of beef

DID There are 7600 butcher shops and YOU supermarkets in Australia. KNOW?

Beth Field

Beth Field

Farm Weekly


Retailers sell a variety of beef cuts

Butchers prepare meat to customers’ needs

Scott Boyle

Beth Field

Mesh gloves help prevent injuries


How is beef handled safely?

Most supermarkets have a meat department where you can buy beef. Supermarkets employ butchers to trim and prepare the cuts of meat for sale.

Australia has strict health and safety rules for handling food products. Raw meat such as beef must be stored and displayed at the right temperature, and people who handle meat follow hygiene regulations. These include wearing hats to stop hair falling onto the meat, washing hands thoroughly before handling meat and wearing gloves.

Supermarket butchers prepare meat just like other butchers but the packaging is different. In a supermarket the cuts of beef are wrapped on foam trays and placed on refrigerated shelves. Each package has an information sticker that shows the weight, price and use-by date of the meat.

Some cuts of beef are vacuum packed in special plastic. This allows meat to be kept in the refrigerator for long periods.

Beth Field

There are many cuts to choose from, and packages range from just one or two pieces through to bulk packages with a lot more in them. This means customers can usually find what they need from what is on the shelves.

Supermarkets provide a wide variety of choice

The Consumer

In supermarkets, beef is already packaged and placed on shelves for customers

DID The value of beef meat sold each YOU year is $1.7 billion. The food KNOW? service industry uses $530 million of beef.


Food safety

Freezing beef

Food safety describes the everyday things we do to make sure we don't get sick from eating foods. Bacteria are the usual cause of any food-borne illness. They especially like red meat because it has lots of proteins and nutrients.

If the meat is being frozen to use later, wrap it as a flat package so it will freeze and defrost quickly. Remove air from the bag and make sure the package is well sealed so meat doesn't dry out. It is a good idea to write the date meat was frozen on the package so you know when it must be used.

The Consumer

Beth Field

If you select, store, prepare and cook meat carefully, there is little risk of foodborne illness.

Selecting beef

Carry meat home from shops in an esky

When shopping, choose refrigerated foods like meat last and check the use-by date. Meat only lasts for a certain amount of time even when properly chilled and stored, so it is important to know when to use it by so you don't get sick.

Storing beef If you are going to eat beef straight away, store it near the bottom of the fridge so juices don't drip onto other foods. There is often a special meat container for this purpose. Use the meat within 2-3 days or by the use-by date.

Pack meat in a separate bag at the checkout so meat juices don't run onto other foods. Take the meat straight home in an esky and put in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home.

If meat is properly frozen, it can be kept in a freezer for up to six months. Approximate storage times are: beef roasts 4-6 months mince 2-3 months sausages 1-2 months steak 3-4 months beef casserole 2-3 months.


Beth Field

David Sweet

Check the use-by date when choosing meat

Wrap meat in flat packages when freezing so it freezes and defrosts quickly

Preparing beef Thaw meat in the fridge, never at room temperature or in water. Bacteria thrive at room temperature. You can use the microwave to defrost meat if you are going to use the meat straight away. Beth Field

Once meat has been thawed, cook it straight away. It is not safe to refreeze thawed meat that hasn't been cooked. You can freeze meat again once it has been cooked in a meal.

Brown mince thoroughly so bacteria can’t grow

David Sweet

David Sweet

Wash hands in warm, soapy water before touching raw meats and use separate chopping boards and utensils for raw meat. If you only have one board, wash it with hot, soapy water before using it to chop other ingredients. Make sure you also wash any plates or containers that have held raw meat before using them for other food.

Wash chopping boards after cutting beef

Wash hands before handling meat

Cooking beef

Leftovers David Sweet

Thaw beef in the fridge or microwave

The Consumer

Cook mince or minced meat products right through until there is no pink meat. Because the meat has been minced, it has a lot of surface area where bacteria can grow. Other beef cuts such as steaks and roasts can be cooked to people's individual tastes, although they shouldn't be eaten very rare.

Place any leftovers in the fridge to cool. Use these by the next day and reheat them to more than 75°C to kill any bacteria that may have grown on the food.


Methods of cooking

Can meat be microwaved? Microwave ovens do not cook food with direct heat. The microwaves go into the food and cause water molecules in food to vibrate. This produces energy which is what cooks the food.

The way meat is cooked affects its tenderness so it is important to use the right cooking method with the right cut of meat. Cooking methods are displayed on MSA-graded beef so you know which method to use with different cuts to give the most tenderness. David Sweet

Methods of cooking meat fall into two main categories — cooking with dry heat and cooking with moist heat.

Dry heat method The dry heat method is a fast way of cooking meat that uses little or no liquid. This is best for tender cuts of meat such as fillet steaks because direct heat seals in juices and creates flavour. You have to be careful not to overcook the meat though, as this will make it tough and dry. Examples of dry heat cooking methods are pan fry, stir-fry, grill, barbecue and oven roast.

This means that cuts which are cooked with moist heat can be microwaved. Tender cuts of meat are not suited to full microwave cooking because they need direct heat to seal in juices.

Barbecuing meat

What is marinating?

Moist heat method

Marinating means soaking meat in a mixture of wine, vinegar, oil and spices (marinade) before cooking. Acidic liquids like wine, vinegar and lemon juice, and fruits such as pineapple increase the tenderness of meat and the other ingredients give meat flavour.

The Consumer

The moist heat method is a slow way of cooking meat that uses liquid. Moist heat methods are best for cuts of meat that are not so tender, such as chuck steak. Long, slow cooking softens the gristle and sinew in these cuts that makes them tough. Examples of moist heat cooking methods are casserole, pot roast, braise and stew.


David Sweet

David Sweet

Roasting meat in a pan


Acidic liquids increase the tenderness of meat

Spaghetti bolognaise

Beef recipes D

There are hundreds of yummy recipes you can make from beef. Here are a few favourites for you to try.

Steakburger You will need: • Lettuce • Steak • Cheese • Tomato • Bread roll sauce. • Tomato or barbecue

You will need: 3 sheets ready rolled puff pastry 500g beef mince 2 sticks celery, finely chopped 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon tomato sauce 2 teaspoons cornflour 1 egg.

Beth Field

What to do: 1. Cut each sheet of pastry into four even strips both ways to give 16 squares from each sheet. 2. Combine mince with celery, tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce and cornflour and mix well. 3. Place a dessertspoon of mixture onto each pastry square and shape into a long sausage laying diagonally across the pastry. 4. Pinch opposite corners of pastry together over the meat mix. 5. Brush pastry lightly with beaten egg and place on lightly greased oven trays. 6. Bake in hot oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

The Consumer

What to do: steak to 1. Grill or barbecue your liking. bread roll. 2. Toast or grill the tuce and 3. Wash and slice let tomato. e, tomato, 4. Place steak, lettuc ide roll cheese and sauce ins and enjoy.

Crunchy sausage rolls

You will need: 500g beef mince 1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped 1/4 cup tom ato paste 425g can peeled tomatoes 1 teaspoon of basil 1 teaspoon of salt 1/2 teaspoo n of sugar. What to do: 1. Heat oil in a pan, add onions and cook stirring over medium hea t for 1-2 minutes. 2. Add mince stirring constantly until well-browned. 3. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes. Serve with your favourite spaghetti, bread and salad.


The Environment Does beef production affect the environment? Australia is suited to cattle production because of its large size and the availability of land. Many countries do not have the space to operate large cattle industries and rely on countries like Australia to supply them with beef and other cattle products. Cattle production does have an effect on the environment and producers work hard to look after the environment and make sure the land is kept in good condition. This includes: • managing stocking rates • soil and tissue testing • protecting waterways


• keeping up with research to find ways to reduce air pollution. Producers also have a responsibility to supply safe, high quality meat for consumers. They follow quality assurance programmes and use chemicals carefully to minimise chemical residues in beef. Australian cattle producers protect the environment so their properties are sustainable while producing clean, highquality meat products to earn their living.

Kondinin Group

The Environment

• correctly disposing of waste products from abattoirs and feedlots, and

Stock movements and grazing patterns are monitored to make decisions about moving cattle. As vegetation is grazed down, cattle can be moved to other areas. Native and feral animals can also contribute to overgrazing, and producers control them by culling and fencing. Some producers use solar-powered electric fences. Stephan Miechel

Many cattle producers are also involved in revegetation projects. They collect seeds from native plants, raise seedlings and plant these on their property to revegetate areas of land.

Producers carefully manage grazing to provide food for cattle and protect the soil and vegetation

Managing stocking rates Cattle producers work hard to look after their land. Managing grazing is an important part of station management as it has the most impact on the natural environment. Overgrazing can cause soil erosion, plant stress and weed invasion.

DID Some stations use satellite images YOU to manage stock movements. The KNOW? satellite data shows changes in vegetation cover over space and time.

• assessing the vegetation and land to see how many cattle it can support • monitoring cattle movements • managing grazing pressure from feral and native animals, and • planting native species.

Producers monitor pasture

Beth Field

Stephan Miechel

• adopting moderate stocking rates

Electric fencing helps control areas cattle graze

The Environment

Cattle producers aim to balance the use of vegetation to produce healthy cattle with maintaining enough vegetation to protect the soil. They do this by:

Cattle producers survey the vegetation on their property. They use this information and climate and rainfall data to determine stocking rates that will ensure vegetation is not overgrazed or undergrazed and protect the soil. This means if any areas are in danger of being overgrazed, there is room to move cattle to another area so vegetation can grow again. This is called pasture spelling. Overgrazed areas can also be fenced to re-establish vegetation.


Soil and tissue testing

Kondinin Group

The Environment

Beth Field


Adding fertiliser to pasture

Taking pasture samples for tissue testing

Beth Field

Producers test their soil and plants to work out exactly how much fertiliser they need to use. They do this by taking soil and leaf tissue samples and sending them to a laboratory for testing. The tests show nutrient levels in the soil and plants. These indicate whether nutrients need to be added as fertiliser. Producers are careful to not use too much fertiliser as excess nutrients can drain into underground water reserves or wash into streams and become food for harmful algae.

Beth Field

In southern production systems, pasture improvement is very important. Producers use fertilisers to add nutrients to the soil to produce good pasture plants. Strong healthy pastures produce healthy cattle and also hold the soil together, protecting it from wind and water erosion.

Irrigating pastures

Lucerne helps lower groundwater

Irrigation and salinity

If producers apply more water than pasture plants can use, water in the ground rises. This is called the watertable and contains natural salts. If the watertable reaches the surface of the soil, the water evaporates and leaves salts behind. Most plants cannot grow in salty soil.

In southern production systems, some producers irrigate their pastures with water from rivers, dams and underground bores. This means good quality pasture can be grown year round to feed the cattle. Producers plan and manage their irrigation carefully so it doesn't harm the land. They only apply an amount of water the pasture can use, and have good drainage systems. Some producers level their paddocks to allow irrigation water to flow evenly across paddocks.

Producers also plant trees or deep-rooted perennial pastures such as lucerne. These help control salinity by using up any excess water and lowering groundwater. Lucerne also ‘fixes’ nitrogen from the air into the ground for other plants to use.

Stephan Miechel

Fencing waterways protects them from damage Beth Field

Cattle producers limit stock access to waterways to protect the surrounding environment

Protecting waterways

Dams and troughs provide water for cattle

Other producers run fences along either side of watercourses and provide access points along the watercourse for stock to drink from. This reduces trampling and the amount of manure entering the water. Access points are usually located on inside bends of waterways where the water movement is slower, and angled away from the direction of the flow to reduce erosion.

The Environment

Some cattle producers completely fence natural waterways and provide other sources of water. For example, windmills are used to pump underground water for cattle. This is piped into tanks and troughs. The location of watering points is carefully planned to make stock use paddocks evenly. This helps stop erosion.

Beth Field INSET: Kondinin Group

Cattle often have access to natural watercourses such as creeks, streams and soaks. Many cattle producers restrict this access to protect waterways and their surrounding environments. Unlimited stock access can damage vegetation, erode riverbanks, increase levels of nutrients in the water and contaminate water supplies.


Disposing of waste Lot feeding There are many cattle in quite small areas in feedlots, so there is a lot of waste such as manure and effluent. There are strict laws about how feedlot operators can store and dispose of waste so it doesn't affect other people or the environment. Feedlots are not allowed near waterways. This is so the waste cannot pollute waterways or the groundwater and become a health risk for people and animals. Photo courtesy of EG Green and Sons

Feedlots are built so the waste drains away to a large collection area or pond. Bacteria help to break down the waste, which is then removed and treated or used for irrigation on other areas of the property. Manure can be composted and sold to other producers to use for fertilising pastures. Abattoirs treat effluent before disposing of it to reduce the amount of nutrients it contains


Beth Field

The Environment

Abattoir effluent

Bacteria break down waste in effluent ponds

Abattoirs are also careful with waste products. The processing of cattle produces effluent with large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. There are strict environmental limits for releasing these nutrients as they can lead to abnormal growth of aquatic plants and cause damaging blue-green algal blooms. Abattoirs treat effluent to remove or reduce these nutrients before disposing of it.



Dung beetles recycle nutrients and aerate soil

Dung beetles Dung beetles play an important role on cattle properties. Cattle produce a lot of manure which forms piles known as cow pats. These can smother pasture and reduce its growth. Dung beetles break down cow pats, improve the soil and help control flies.

Soil fertility Burying cow pats provides natural fertiliser for pasture plants. The beetles change phosphorus and nitrogen in the cow pats into forms that plants can use. This adds vital nutrients to the soil.

Soil aeration

How dung beetles work The dung beetle life cycle is six to twelve weeks. Remains of crust

Dung balls

Adult Pupa

The tunnels the beetles make add air to the soil. This helps rainwater soak into the ground instead of washing away. The extra oxygen also encourages the growth of useful microbes called microflora. These help make nutrients available to the plants.

Fly control

Entrance to tunnel

Egg Larva

DID Australia has more than 200 YOU species of native dung beetle. KNOW? Australia’s 24 million cattle produce about 260 million cow pats each day. That’s about 420,000 tonnes of wet dung per day for dung beetles to work on!

Burying cow pats helps control buffalo flies. These lay eggs in cow pats and breed in large numbers. The adult flies feed on cattle, which can irritate the cattle and reduce their weight gain. When dung beetles bury cow pats, flies cannot breed. Predatory dung beetles also control flies by feeding on fly larvae in and around cow pats. This reduces the need to treat stock for flies and reduces animal stress. Some chemicals used to treat cattle can be harmful to dung beetles. The beetles are important helpers, so producers use chemicals that won't harm them or treat cattle when it is least harmful to the beetles.

The Environment

There are different types of dung beetles including tunnellers, ball rollers and predators. Ball rollers and tunnellers bury cow pats underground. They tunnel beneath cow pats, roll dung into balls and carry the balls down to the end of their tunnels. When dung beetles go to work on a fresh cow pat, they can bury it in a couple of hours.

Dung beetles can bury cow pats in two hours


Managing air pollution

The greenhouse effect Some heat energy is absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and some is radiated back towards earth

Beef cattle produce about 7% of the methane gas produced in Australia in a year. Methane is produced when microbes break down food in the stomach of ruminants. It escapes into the atmosphere when the animal belches. Sewage ponds, landfills and rubbish tips, rice farming, coal mining and natural gas leaks also produce methane. Gases like methane are called greenhouse gases. They collect in the atmosphere and absorb heat. This acts like a blanket around the Earth and keeps it from getting too hot or too cold. This is a natural process and is called the greenhouse effect.


Radiated energy

Warmed surface radiates heat energy back out towards space

Greenhouse gases Incoming solar energy warms the earth's surface

Australian methane emissions Forestry and other 1.0%

Waste 14.0%

Industrial processes 0.1% Energy 23.3%


Agriculture 61.6%

2 4

Agriculture methane emissions 1 Burning of agricultural residues 2 Prescribed burning of savannas 3 Rice cultivation 4 Livestock

3 Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, 1999 Greenhouse Gas Survey

DID Australian households produce 20% YOU of our greenhouse gases. We do KNOW? this when we cook, when we use energy to heat and cool our homes, when we use cars and hot water, and through household waste that decays in rubbish tips. Make a plan to reduce the greenhouse gas you produce!

Researchers are trying to find ways to reduce the production of methane gas and cattle producers are adopting these. For example, research shows the amount of gas cattle produce depends on their age, weight and quality of food. Providing good quality pastures for cattle to eat means the cattle produce less methane gas. A vaccine that destroys the microbes which produce methane is also being trialled. Scientists hope this will reduce methane production in cattle by 25%.

Beth Field

The Environment

Levels of methane and other greenhouse gases have increased above natural levels in the past 200 years. This has caused the temperature of the Earth to rise, and is known as global warming. Scientists believe this will change our climate.

Solar energy (sunlight)

Good pastures reduce methane production

Which residues do producers look out for?

What are residues?

Organochlorine chemicals such as dieldrin and DDT were used to treat cattle yards and buildings for termites until the 1980s. These are long lasting chemicals and contaminated the soil at these sites. When cattle grazed these areas they took in contaminated soil, which left chemical residues in carcases. The use of these chemicals is now banned to stop residues. Contaminated soil sites are fenced off so cattle cannot graze in these areas.

Agricultural and veterinary chemicals are widely used in Australia for beef production and other agricultural enterprises. If small amounts of these chemicals are found in carcases after slaughter, they are called chemical residues.

The main sources of residue contamination in cattle are:

✔ yards and buildings that were treated with chemicals called organochlorines

✔ crops treated with organochlorines ✔ cotton trash ✔ chemical treatments for controlling ticks and buffalo fly.

Contaminated sites are fenced off

Stephan Miechel

DID Producers also observe a YOU withholding period for hormonal KNOW? growth promotants (HGPs). These are naturally occurring substances that are used to promote growth in cattle. Producers apply chemicals carefully

The Environment

Treatment of stock for ticks and buffalo flies involves the use of chemicals. Producers read the labels carefully and apply chemicals according to the instructions to make sure there is no risk of residue contamination. They also allow a certain amount of time to pass between any chemical treatments and slaughter. This is called the withholding period.

Producers test soil for chemical residues

Stephan Miechel

Crops fed to cattle can contain contaminants. In recent times endosulfan and chlorfluazuron (CFZ), which are used in the cotton industry, were responsible for residue problems in export beef. This has led to a ban on the use of ultra-low-volume endosulfan and CFZ. Feeding cotton trash to stock is also banned.

Stephan Miechel

Chemical residues


National Residue Survey Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia (AFFA) conducts a National Residue Survey (NRS) every two years. This is a random survey to monitor the occurrence of chemical residues in cattle and make sure they are within limits.

Stephan Miechel

Blood tests show whether there are chemical residues in cattle before sale



If a residue above the acceptable limit is found, authorities are told immediately. The meat is disposed of and the carcase is traced to identify the cause of the contamination. Steps are then taken to fix the problem.

The National Registration Authority (NRA) is responsible for registering chemicals, and sets MRLs for these chemicals so Australian beef and other food is safe for consumers to eat. When producers sell cattle they complete a vendor declaration which shows all the chemical treatments cattle have received. Vendor declarations are required before cattle will be slaughtered.

Stephan Miechel

The Environment

Monitoring cattle for residues is an important part of quality assurance. There is a good testing system from paddock to plate to make sure Australian beef doesn't exceed maximum residue levels (MRLs). These extremely low levels are the maximum amount of a chemical residue that is legally allowed to be in foods.

All abattoirs test a percentage of the stock slaughtered for residues. Common residues that are tested for include organochlorines such as dieldrin and endosulfan, and chlorfluazuron. Abattoirs are able to detect these chemicals at very low levels.

The NRA sets MRLs for veterinary chemicals

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service also tests carcases for residues. This is a requirement for exporting beef to countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Mexico and all European Union countries. If there are problems such as the chlorfluazuron residues in the late 1990s, AQIS carries out intensive sampling to identify all contaminated cattle.

How does the weather affect beef production? Producers manage their cattle to suit the climate. The climate and weather are very important in beef production because they determine the breed of cattle that can be grown, the types of work on the farm and even the animals' feed. All farm activities are based around the seasons. In northern Australia, tropical breeds of cattle are produced to cope with the heat and dry conditions. There are only two seasons – the wet and the dry. Most of the cattle work takes place during the dry season. Other jobs such as fencing and maintaining windmills and pipelines take place during the wet season. Stephan Miechel

In southern production systems, mostly temperate breeds of cattle are produced. Cattle producers are busy throughout the year looking after cattle and pastures. Climate plays an important role in beef production

Beef cattle producers need to be very skilled to manage seasonal changes, the variety of activities on their properties and produce high quality beef.

They carefully look after their farms and protect the environment so the land will continue to produce beef that is safe and healthy for people around the world to eat. DID Australia is the driest inhabited YOU continent even though some areas KNOW? have annual rainfall of over 1200

millimetres. Our climate varies greatly across the continent, as well as from year-to-year.

The Environment

If there is a very dry year or a flood or drought, there may not be enough feed for cattle, and cattle producers may have to sell some animals. This affects the price of beef, and because we sell our beef to other countries, it also affects how much money our country makes.



Glossary abattoir – a factory where cattle are processed into meat and meat by-products.

commission – a fee or percentage paid to an agent for their services.

export – to sell goods to another country.

consumer – person who buys goods.

extensive – covering a large area. farm – an area of land used for growing and rearing plants and animals.

contamination – polluted, not safe to feed cattle or let cattle near.

anaemic – lacking red blood cells, resulting in pale skin and tiredness.

corporate – belonging to a group of people rather than an individual person.

antibodies – a type of blood protein that helps fight disease.

crossbreeding – mating animals from two or more different breeds.

artificial insemination – a process where a human places semen from a bull in a cow to fertilise an egg.

cryovac packing – special bags that have the air removed to create a vacuum and keep meat fresh for longer.

auction – the sale of goods, usually in public, in which items are sold to the highest bidder.

cull – remove from the herd.

foetus – a developing unborn calf, from eight weeks after conception to birth.

deficiency – lack of an essential element in the diet.

forage – search for food.

branding – a form of identification; each cattle property has their own brand. breeding – mating male and female cattle to produce offspring with desirable traits.

The Environment

erosion – when soil is washed away by water, blown by wind or compacted by livestock.

accreditation – given official recognition for meeting required standards.

bacteria – microscopic single-celled organisms.


cloven-hooved – the divided hoof of fourlegged ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer.

butcher – a person whose trade is dealing in meat. carcase – the dead body of an animal. castrate – remove testicles of a male animal so it can’t breed.

disease – an infection that makes animals and humans sick. domestic – one’s own country. donor cow – a cow which provides eggs for transplanting. effluent – all the waste that is washed out of abattoirs and feedlots including manure, dirt, urine, water and detergent. embryo – a developing unborn calf, from the time the cow’s egg is fertilised to eight weeks of pregnancy.

cattle crush – a small holding pen used to restrain cattle for observations, weighing or treatment.

embryo transfer – a procedure where fertilised eggs are removed from the best cows in a herd and transplanted into other cows.

climate – long term average weather conditions in a particular area.

environment – the area around us ie soil, water, air, plants and animals.

feedlot – area where cattle are grainfed to improve the meat quality prior to sale. fertile – able to produce offspring. fertiliser – a substance that provides food for plants. Contains important nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

genetics – the study of characteristics and how they are passed on from one generation to the next. gestation – length of time a calf grows inside its mother; pregnancy. grain – the seed of plants like barley, oats and lupins. grazing – eating growing grass. hay – dried pasture or oaten straw put into bales to feed to livestock. herbicide – a type of chemical used to control weeds. herd – a group of cattle. hormone – a chemical made in the body which sends messages through the bloodstream to make cells or tissues respond.

pasture – grasses and legumes grown for animals to eat.

hygiene – clean, safe practices which maintain good health.

pedigree – document recording the line of relations of a purebred animal.

intensive – a type of farming where lots of labour is required.

pollution – when waste, gas or rubbish contaminates the environment.

intestine – the part of the digestive system after the stomach; extracts nutrients from food.

quality – a measure of how good something is.

iron – a nutrient that helps red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. irrigate – water pastures and crops from rivers, dams and underground bores. jackaroo – male farm worker. jillaroo – female farm worker. legumes – crop and pasture plants which add nitrogen to the soil and provide animals with protein. malnutrition – poor body condition resulting from the lack of some foods or vital nutrients. mating – the joining of a male animal and female animal for breeding. mature – an age when an animal can reproduce. menstruation – the discharge of blood from the uterus of non-pregnant female animals. microbes – tiny living micro-organisms, usually bacteria. nutrients – substances which provide goodness for plants and animals to keep them healthy. parasite – a pest that lives on or in another animal and can make it sick.

quarantine – a period of isolation to stop the spread of disease. ration – amount of food. recipient cow – a cow into which an embryo is transplanted. regulations – rules for operating. residues – traces of chemicals or drugs in a carcase after slaughter. retailer – person who sells goods to the public. rumen bolus – an electronic microchip placed in the rumen of cattle to identify the animal. saliva – clear fluid produced by the salivary glands. saturated fat – a type of fat found on meat, full-cream dairy products, many take-away foods and processed foods such as pastries and commercial biscuits. semen – the fluid from a bull which contains sperm to fertilise an egg.

stud – a place where cattle are produced and sold to other producers for breeding purposes. sustainable – a way of farming so the land can go on producing animals in the future because it is in good condition. temperament – an animal’s nature. temperate – a moderate climate. traceback – to follow back to the origin. traits – characteristics, features or qualities. tropical – a climate with high temperatures through the year and wet and dry seasons. uterus – the part of the cow where a calf grows. vaccinate – to inject with a type of medicine to fight disease. vegetation – the plants of a region. vitamins – an important part of food which we need for normal health and development. waste – unwanted products. way bill – a form producers complete which gives important details about cattle. wholesaler – a person who sells large quantities of goods to retailers for them to sell to the public.

slaughter – the process used to kill cattle.

withholding period – a period of time which must pass between treating an animal with chemicals and processing it for human consumption.

spay – sterilise a female animal by removing the ovaries.

yield – the amount of meat from a carcase.

silage – food for cattle which is made from stored, fermented grass.


humane – inflicting as little pain and stress as possible.



Index abattoirs 38 air pollution 62 animal behaviour 34 animal health 31 artificial insemination 25 beef cattle 6 beef producers 18 beef definition 3 birth 12 boning 39 branding 27 breeding 22, 23 breeds 7, 10 temperate 8 tropical 9 bullocks 10 bulls 10 selection 24 value of 24 butchers 50 by-products 6, 42 calves 10, 12 canning meat 41 carcase 38, 40 cattle breeds 7, 9 CATTLECARE 32 cattle farms 19, 20 cattle ships 44 cattle stations 19, 20 chemical residues 63 screening 64


chemicals 34 chilling 39 cholesterol 48 choosing meat 49, 52 cooking beef 53, 54 cows 10 crossbreeding 9 curing meat 41 digestion 13 drying meat 41 dung beetles 61 effluent management 60 embryo transfer 25 employment 45 environmental issues 56 exporting beef 43 live cattle 44 feeding 13, 14, 28, 30 feedlots 29, 30 fermenting meat 41 finishing 29 food safety 52, 53 foot-and-mouth disease 15, 31 freezing beef 39, 52 gestation 11 grading 39 growth 14, 28 health 31 heifers 10 history 16, 17 hygiene 34, 51

identification 27 illnesses 15 industry history 16 iron 47 irrigation 58 Livestock Export Accreditation Programme 32, 44 machinery safety 34 mad cow disease 15 marketing 33 meat cuts 49 meat inspection 40 Meat Standards Australia 49 mustering 26 National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme 29, 32 National Livestock Identification Scheme 27 National Saleyards Quality Assurance 32 nutrition cattle 28, 30 consumers 46 packaging 39 pioneers 17 pasture production 28 preparing beef 53 processing 38, 41 producers 18, 35 production systems 20, 21 quality assurance 32 quarantine regulations 31

recipes 55 record keeping 35 reproduction 11 retailing 50 safety 34, 51 salinity 58 saturated fats 48 selling cattle 33, 36, 37 slaughter 38 smoking meat 41 soil testing 58 steers 10 stock management 26 stock routes 17 stocking rates 57 storing beef 52 supermarkets 51 tattooing 27 transport 33, 39 trimming 38 vaccination 31 vealers 10 waste disposal 60 waterway protection 59 weaners 10 weaning 12 weather 65 weighing 30, 38 yard design 34 zoonoses 34



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The Story of Beef - from The Workboot Series  
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