The Framework explained

The Framework explained

March 07 2022
  • The role cattle play in helping manage weeds and pests is increasingly being recognised.
  • Data is crucial to demonstrating sustainability performance and connecting with stakeholders.
  • The grass and tree cover priority of the ABSF is an excellent example.


Beef production is intrinsically linked to well-managed landscapes.

Data is crucial to demonstrating the contribution the beef industry makes to the sustainability of the landscape, animals, the economy and people.

THE Australian beef industry is custodian of more than 50 per cent of the nation’s land mass – and the role cattle play in helping to manage weeds and pests, and enhancing environmental health, is increasingly being recognised.

The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework (ABSF) defines what ‘sustainable beef production’ looks like in practice and annually tracks how industry is performing over a series of indicators. Data, collected from Australia beef businesses and other relevant stakeholders throughout the value chain, is fundamental to industry’s ability to accurately measure and report its performance. It helps to identify areas of high performance, and those which need improvement, and is used to indicate where greater investment is needed.

Data is also crucial to clearly demonstrating the contribution industry makes to the sustainability of the landscape, animals, economy and community. Telling the stories of the beef industry’s people and businesses, and backing this with verified information, is at the heart of making meaningful connections with customers and stakeholders.

Balance of tree and grass cover is an example

An excellent example of where strong inroads to the collection of transparent, verified and valuable data is in the area of grass and tree cover (an ABSF priority).

The Australian beef industry has worked closely with key customers, stakeholders, and technical experts to collate data to document grass and tree cover, including through the ABSF process. This included convening an Expert Working Group to develop the practical, evidence-based measures for this ABSF priority, and the Framework reported against these for the first time in 2019.

These indicators include:


This represented national forest/woodland gain and loss from 2018 to 2019 across grazing properties. To put this in perspective, the net change in national woody (forest and woodland) cover extent was -0.29%. At this stage, without regionality and context, these figures are difficult to interpret, and it is unclear if they represent an improvement or decline for this priority.


Beef production is intrinsically linked to well-managed landscapes. The ‘Balance of Tree and Grass Cover’ priority looks at industry’s care of natural resources and biodiversity, by measuring the area of and changes in vegetation.

As managers of approximately half the Australian land mass, beef producers are some of the nation’s most important environmental custodians and carers of the nation’s natural assets.

The Australian beef industry believes, and has shown, that well-managed landscapes and livestock production are not mutually exclusive – in fact, they are bonded to the prosperity of agricultural businesses. Tree and grass cover is important to maintaining healthy soils by reducing soil erosion, and increasing water infiltration, to grow both production and environmental wellbeing.

The position of the industry outlined in the ABSF Annual Update says industry is committed to:

  • Responsibly managing vegetation with the landscapes to deliver dual benefits for grazing and ecosystem services
  • Recognising that all Federal and State laws to protect and enhance areas of high conservation value are the minimum standard compared with best practice
  • Managing landscapes in a manner that is regionally appropriate, with consideration during farm planning of an appropriate balance of tree and grass for:
    • Grazing livestock
    • Conserving – and where possible enhancing – soil health, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration
    • Focusing on maintaining ground cover to prevent soil run-off into waterways
  • Actively managing re-growth to protect existing pastures and grasslands
  • Actively managing vegetation when require for firebreaks, weed and pest control
  • Further development of market-based mechanisms and financial incentives to support producers to invest in conversation and regeneration activities on-farm.

What this means for you

The Balance of Tree and Grass Cover monitoring is unique in that it tracks net changes, considering both clearing and regrowth, enabling a more accurate capture of vegetation management. This is further supported by the latest data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, ranking Australia as No.2 for reforestation with an average net gain in forest area between 2010-2020 of 446,000 hectares per year.

These figures clearly articulate the role beef production has in effectively managing Australia’s landscape, and ensures we are global leaders in vegetation management. Understanding the reforestation rates is often underutilised in the public domain, and the ABSF is committed to demonstrating industry’s continual improvement in vegetation, grassland, and landscape management.

More information



Jacob Betros