Dept. of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.
Swan’s Lagoon, which is 125 km south-south-west of Townsville, was purchased by the Queensland Government as a beef cattle research station in 1961. It is situated within the seasonally-dry tropical spear grass region of North Queensland. The station was expanded from 80 km2 to 340 km2 by purchase of the adjoining Expedition block in 1978. The first advisory committee formed and initiated research in 1961.
The median annual rainfall of 708 mm (28 inches) is highly variable, with over 80% usually falling in December–April. Annual evaporation is 2.03 metres. The 60% of useable area is mostly flat with low fertility duplex soils, of which more than 50% is phosphorus deficient. Natural spear grass-based pastures predominate over the station.
Swan’s Lagoon research has contributed to understanding the biology of many aspects of beef production for northern Australia. Research outcomes have provided options to deal with the region’s primary challenges of weaning rates averaging less than 60%, annual growth rates averaging as little as 100 kg, high mortality rates and high management costs. All these relate to the region’s variable and highly seasonal rainfall—challenges that add to insect-borne viruses, ticks, buffalo fly and internal parasites. As well as the vast amount of practical beef production science produced at Swan’s Lagoon, generations of staff have been trained there to support beef producers throughout Queensland and northern Australia to increase their business efficiency.
The Queensland Government has provided most of the funds for staffing and operations. Strong beef industry support is reflected in project funding from meat industry levies, managed by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and its predecessors. MLA has consistently provided the majority of operational research funding since the first grant for ‘Studies of management practices, adaption of different breeds and strains to tropical environments, and studies on tick survival and resistance’ in 1962–63. A large number of other agencies and commercial companies have also supported research.