UNE expertise central to newly-launched IndoBeef program

Published 12 February 2018

University of New England (UNE) researchers are integral to a $11.7 million joint Australian-Indonesian program, IndoBeef, that aims to improve the capability of Indonesia’s smallholder-based beef industry.

Launched in Lombok, the program is supporting two projects that will investigate ways of improving the livelihoods of Indonesia’s smallholder beef cattle producers, and of enhancing the nation’s livestock carrying capacity.

The PalmCow project, led by UNE Adjunct Professor Dr John Ackerman, aims to enhance cattle production and carrying capacity by using some of Indonesia’s vast palm oil plantations and improving the efficiency of beef value chains in crop-livestock systems.

The second project, CropCow, led by UNE Professor Heather Burrow, will focus on developing livestock husbandry and business skills of smallholder cattle producers.

IndoBeef is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The research will be jointly led by UNE and the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD) through the Indonesian Centre for Animal Research and Development (ICARD).

For Australia’s northern beef industry, investment in a stronger Indonesian domestic cattle industry delivers greater opportunity for the north’s live cattle export sector, and ensures that beef remains an important protein in the Indonesian diet.

“Annual beef consumption in Indonesia is currently around two kilograms per person, but based on population growth this is expected to double or even triple over the next ten to twenty years,” said Professor Burrow.

“If that expansion happens then neither Australia nor Indonesia will be able to meet demand.”

Dr Atien Priyanti, the director of ICARD, believes that the IndoBeef projects will allow more of Indonesia’s smallholder farmers to profit from the growing demand for beef within Indonesia.

In particular, she believes there is a great opportunity within IndoBeef to deliver proven approaches and technologies to many smallholder farmers.

“From the beginning, this project builds bridges between institutions and disciplines, acknowledges policy development from local to national levels, and links the public and private sectors,” Dr Priyanti said.

“This means that IndoBeef has a robust framework from which to build on the positive legacy of prior beef research in Indonesia.”

The Indonesian Government has a policy of improving food security through better beef production, but that goal is challenged by a scarcity of suitable grazing land.

“This means that strong trade opportunities for both beef and live cattle will continue to exist for Australian beef producers and most likely continue to grow over that time,” Prof. Burrow said.

IndoBeef’s research priorities were developed by ICARD in collaboration with the Australian Centre of International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which is administering the project.

CropCow project leader Prof. Burrow is one of Australia’s leading northern beef industry researchers. She was Chief Executive of the Beef Cooperative Research Centre, managing more than 200 researchers within the world-class industry-focused organisation.

PalmCow leader Dr John Ackerman has been based in Indonesia since 2006, working in a number of roles for Government and the red meat industry. He is the Government-appointed industry member of the Indonesia-Australia Partnership on Food Security in the Red Meat and Cattle Sector.

The $11.7 million IndoBeef project is expected to run over about four years.

For more information about ACIARs work on cattle in Indonesia go to https://aciar.exposure.co/transforming-cattle-farming-in-lombok

IMAGE: Gathered at the launch of the IndoBeef program in Lombok: Professor John Ackerman (UNE), Professor Heather Burrow (UNE), Dr Peter Horne (ACIAR), Dr Yeni Widiawati (Balai Pengkajian Teknologi Pertanian East Kalimantan), Ms Naomi Cook (DFAT), Dr Yenny Anggraeny (ICARD), Dr Werner Stur (ACIAR)


The beef industry is Australia’s largest agricultural industry, worth around $17 billion in 2017.

About half of the beef produced in Australia comes from northern Australia, which has very different cattle production systems and many more environmental challenges, including pests and diseases, than those common in more benign environments.

Because of Australia’s relatively low population size (and therefore number of Australian consumers), its beef industry is very dependent on export markets, with 65-70% of beef produced in Australia being exported.

One of the world’s fastest growing beef markets is Indonesia, which has a population of more than 260 million people and a rapidly-growing middle class of consumers.

Indonesia is Australia’s largest market for live-exported cattle, taking on average 500,000 cattle a year.

Northern Australia and Indonesia also share common cattle production challenges, along with complementary beef production systems and market chains that have prompted co-investment of Australian companies in Indonesia and vice versa.

Export of young growing steers from northern Australia for feeding and slaughter in Indonesia overcomes a problem of finishing cattle in northern Australia and at the same time creates large numbers of jobs for some of Indonesia’s poorest people, creating another benefit for both countries.