This study aimed at estimating the costs and benefits of all beef cattle genetic improvement activity, across Australia, over the period 1970 to the present. The total cumulative Present Value (PV) of investments by industry, government and other agencies into selection, crossbreeding and grading up since 1963, and of imported genetics, was estimated to be $340m (in $2001 at a 7% discount rate). Using a suite of genetic evaluation models, farming systems models and an industry-level model, the cumulative PV of industry returns were estimated. Within-breed selection generated $944m; crossbreeding in southern Australia $255m; changing breed composition in southern Australia $62m; and changing breed composition in northern Australia $8.1bn. The benefit/cost ratio for this investment was 28:1 over the last 30 years.