This page contains information for Northern Territory (NT) beef producers and pastoralists who are interested in breeding cattle and herd improvement techniques.

Nearly 90% of beef properties in the NT breed their own cattle.


Cattle in the north need to be tolerant of heat, resistant to external parasites such as ticks, and willing and able to walk up to 5km to watering points.

The major breeds used are based on the heat-resistant Bos indicus (zebu). 

The predominant breed is Brahman, 49%, followed by crossbreeds, tropical composites, Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmaster. 

Only 5% of cattle in the NT are of pure Bos taurus heritage.  They are mostly found in the Alice Springs district.

Read the Agnotes and technical bulletins listed below for information which will help confirm your herd breeding objectives, inform purchasing decisions and provide advice on common husbandry procedures.

Bull examination and testing

Culling non-performing animals from the breeder herd is one of many strategies you can use to increase profitability. 

You should assess a bull's fertility and functionality before purchase and breeding as the best way to ensure calf-generating opportunities are not wasted.

Bull examinations should include assessment of the bull’s structure or conformation, libido and semen quality.

For more information about fertility testing of bulls read the Agnote bull examination and testing PDF (61.0 KB).

Breeding polled cattle

The cattle industry is moving towards breeding cattle without horns - known as polled cattle.

Horned cattle are a danger to handlers and need more space during transport to ensure they do not harm other cattle. 

It has been common practice to remove horns when cattle are calves. Although most animals heal quickly with minimal complications, dehorning can cause small, temporary delays in growth.

There is therefore an increasing trend towards breeding polled cattle to eliminate stress on the animals.

For more information read the Agnote breeding polled cattle PDF (46.3 KB).

Genetic effects on the productivity of beef cattle

Learning more about how an animal's genetics influence its performance potential enables you to more effectively target improvements.

Although an animal's environment, including the quality of its feed, is a factor, genetics limit the extent to which an animal can perform. 

This is true for every trait or characteristic an animal has, from the colour of it’s coat, to horn status, to lifetime reproductive capabilities. 

For more information read the Agnote genetic effects on the productivity of beef cattle PDF (34.9 KB).

Genetic effects on the mature weight of cattle

Mature weight is an important trait in beef cattle. 

Mature weight of breeders is important because larger cows require more feed. This means that running large mature females will result in higher grazing pressure than running an equal number of small or medium mature females.

For more information read the Agnote genetic effects on the mature weight of cattle PDF (51.4 KB).

Nucleus bull-breeding herds

A nucleus bull-breeding herd is an elite herd of cattle that is maintained on a commercial property specifically to breed sires for the commercial herd. Successful nucleus bull-breeding requires a clear vision of the desired traits in cattle selected for the nucleus. 

For more information read the Technote nucleus bull-breeding herds PDF (52.9 KB).

Testicle size as a fertility indicator in bulls

Testicle size allows graziers to predict the sperm-producing potential of young bulls. This relates directly to their fertility.

For more information read the Agnote testicle size: a fertility indicator in bulls PDF (90.9 KB).

Last updated: 24 March 2016

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