Revolutionary Cotton Grains Cattle program to boost livestock nutrition and farming sustainability

24 May 2023

The Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia’s (CRCNA) Cotton, Grain Cattle Program (CGC) is a game changer set to refine and reset Northern Australia’s cropping and cattle sectors.

The four-year, $8 million program is the CRCNA’s largest investment to date and was launched in Darwin today in the sidelines of the Northern Australia Food Futures Conference.

CRCNA’s Chair,  Sheriden Morris said this is part of a significant body of work across the north, with the potential to develop new industries for long term growth, shifting the landscape of northern agriculture through sustainable, adaptable cropping systems and cattle production improvements.

 Megan Pope
Dr Joe Eyre. Image: Megan Pope

“The CGC program includes six projects and has 30 research and funding partners to address cross-regional, geographically consistent priorities.”

Genuine collaboration is at the heart of CGC where researchers, producers, development corporations and jurisdictional governments are working to maximise the productivity of cropping and beef production systems in Kununurra and the Ord region of WA, the Katherine and Douglas Daly regions of the NT, and in developing crop production in areas of north Queensland.

The Northern Territory Minister for Agribusiness and Fisheries, the Hon Paul Kirby, said he was delighted with the NT Government’s ongoing collaboration with the CRC for Developing Northern Australia.

“Investment into the cattle industry and development in agriculture in the north is integral for growth," he said.

"The launch of the Cotton, Grains, Cattle initiative is a welcomed boost which will contribute to efficient programs and profitability.”

To bolster productivity across the north's cropping and cattle sectors the CGC program has six projects across key northern regions to develop integrated agricultural systems.

  1. Crops for Cattle to increase the efficiency of Northern Australian cattle production systems using local crops to improve dry season weight gain (NT)
  2. Fundamentals of cropping-systems that deliver sustainable growth of the agricultural sector (NT)
  3. Cropping enabled cattle production enabled by feed products from irrigated cropping (WA)
  4. Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA) sustainable systems for diversification of ORIA cropping (WA) . Extension capacity of cropping systems, enhancing to sustain growth (NQ)
  5. Cotton, Grains, Cattle farming systems (NQ)

The four-year program is focused on research and development outcomes that address soil and water suitability and management; optimised agronomy; crop protection; biosecurity; development and maintenance of local industry capacity in remote locations; development of best practices for animal production; and stewardship and social licence including whole-of-life methane emissions tailored to the scale and climates of the north.

Dr Joe Eyre of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at The University of Queensland is leading the Cotton, Grains, Cattle farming systems (NQ) sub-project.

He says the program will aim to answer questions relevant to cotton-grains-cattle farming systems in North Qld and provide stakeholders with the information they need to make informed decisions.

“Our research will identify best practices for pest and disease management, canopy management, and soil water capture and conservation in the north,” Dr Eyre said.

“We will also explore opportunities for increasing the value and resilience of cropping systems, and the potential for on-farm produced feed sources for cattle.”

The CRCNA is funded as part of the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre Program.

Its investments are helping to de-risk new, emerging, and established industries by identifying barriers and providing solutions to development by identifying value-add opportunities, new markets, improving supply chains, enhancing productivity, building workforce capabilities, and providing a strong evidence base to support decision-making processes and policy frameworks to maintain this work.

Media contact: Ian Biggs, CRCNA Senior Project Manager, +61 499 333 266; Ben Carlson, CRCNA Communications, +61 486 012 149.

The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation is a research institute at The University of Queensland supported by the Queensland Government via the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.