NEXUS project: exploring profitable, sustainable livestock businesses in an increasingly variable climate


Changes in the climate of eastern Australia have occurred over the past two decades including increasing temperatures and heat waves, and declining rainfall in south eastern Australia, requiring a re-evaluation of livestock production systems. The NEXUS project explored the connections between profitability, productivity, greenhouse gas mitigation, carbon sequestration and consumer perceptions of livestock businesses in an increasingly variable climate. With funding from Meat & Livestock Australia's Donor Company, University of Melbourne, University of Tasmania and CSIRO, the NEXUS project was run from March 2020 – June 2023. It was a multi-party program of collaboration across the Livestock Productivity Partnership, including the funding organisations, University of Southern Queensland and University of New England.

Project outline

Integrated assessments of seven farm case studies from Tasmania to north Queensland were conducted to identify systems adaptations that are profitable, environmentally sustainable and targeted towards future market opportunities. A reference group made up of local farmers and consultants in each region guided the research teams, to ensure that the systems and adaptation options examined, were relevant and findings were robust.

A transdisciplinary research approach was used, using farmers and consultants, farm systems modellers, farm economists and social scientists.

The impacts of future climates in 2030 and 2050 were explored, as well as opportunities to adapt.
Adaptation options explored:

  1. Feedbase (e.g. improved legumes, summer active pastures, or deep-rooted forages),
  2. Animal management and genetics (e.g. altered management calendars),
  3. Business models (e.g. enterprise mix (livestock : crop), alternative markets such as carbon),
  4. Technology and infrastructure (e.g. seasonal feedlot, virtual herding, seasonal forecasts), and
  5. Landscape management (e.g. raising soil fertility, use of trees on-farm)

Pathways for livestock businesses to adapt to the changing climate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions were explored as:

The schematic below provides an overview of the project structure.

Research Team

The research team lead by Dr Brendan Cullen consisted of farm system scientists, modellers, economists and social scientists:

Name and institution Role
Dr Brendan Cullen (UM) Project leader, farm systems modelling in Vic, NSW.
Prof Richard Eckard (UM) Leader Mitigation/Sequestration theme
Dr Alexandria Sinnett (UM) Leader Farm system economics
Prof Bill Malcom (UM) Farm system economics
Dr Saranika Talukder (UM) Farm Systems Modelling
Prof Ruth Nettle (UM) Social research
Dr Marg Ayre (UM) Social research
Nikki Reichelt (UM) Social Research
Dr Paul Cheng (UM) Animal science, adaptation options
David Cobon (USQ) USQ Leader, Farm Systems Modelling
Dr Duc-Anh An-Vo (USQ) Farm Systems Modelling
Dr Thong Nguyen (USQ) Farm Systems Modelling
Assoc Prof Matt Harrison (UTas) UTAS Nexus leader, farm systems modelling
Dr Lydia Turner (UTas) Social research
Dr Karen Christie (UTas) Farm Systems Modelling
Peter Ball (UTas) Producer engagement
Dr Alison Hall (UTas) Social research
Dr Nicoli Barnes (UTas) Social research
Franco Bilotto (UTas) Farm Systems Modelling
Dr Di Mayberry (CSIRO) CSIRO Project leader, farm system modelling
Dr Chris Stokes (CSIRO) Farm Systems Modelling
Dr Adam Liedloff (CSIRO) Farm Systems Modelling
Martin Amidy (ANU) Farm system economics
Dr Lindsey Perry (QDAF) Producer engagement
Dr Tom Davison (UNE) LPP Coordinator, transformational adaptation options

Case Studies

NEXUS conducted integrated assessments of farm case studies in regions from the North of Queensland to the Midlands of Tasmania to identify systems adaptations that are profitable, environmentally sustainable and targeted towards future market opportunities.

The case study farms were in the following regions:

  1. North Queensland (led by CSIRO)
  2. Central Queensland (led by University of Southern Queensland)
  3. Northern New South Wales (led by University of Melbourne)
  4. Northern Victoria (led by University of Melbourne)
  5. East Gippsland, Victoria (led by University of Melbourne)
  6. North west Tasmania (led by University of Tasmania)
  7. Midlands, Tasmania (led by University of Tasmania)

The FutureSheep project in Western Australia is examining case studies using similar approaches:

Transformational adaption webinars

The NEXUS hosted a series of webinars from leading scientists focussed on identifying longer-term transformative level adaptation options. Some of these options were then modelled on the case study farms to inform the development of R&D priorities that are longer term and higher risk but with a view to delivering transformational level change to the industry and its capacity to adapt to future climate scenarios.
Click webinar title to view slides.

Project webinar – June 2023

A webinar providing an outline of the project and snapshot of results from case studies around Australia was held on 15 June 2023.

NEXUS Project Webinar Slidepack

Project publications (to date)

Further information and related resources

For more information email Brendan Cullen or contact him by phone on +61 03 8344 8028.

The Nexus project was funded by Meat & Livestock Australia's Donor Company, University of Melbourne, University of Tasmania and CSIRO.