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Emily King
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ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

Australia's Declining Sheep Flock

Posted by Bestprac on Feb 07 2010

Implications for the Sheep CRC and the Australian sheep industry
With thanks to Sheep CRC


The size of the Australian sheep flock has fallen from a 170 m in 1990 to below 77 m in 2008. With strong demand for lamb and high prices for mutton and sheep for the live export trade there are concerns that current levels of turnoff are not sustainable. There have also been important changes in the flock composition with an increase in the proportion of Merino ewes joined to terminal sires and a sharp decrease in numbers of Merino wethers relative to ewes. The combined effect of the declining flock size and the changing structure away from wool-producing Merinos has significantly reduced wool production.

Decreasing supply and continued strong demand has resulted in increased prices of sheep and lambs. The high prices for mature animals (ewes and wethers) provides a mixed message. On one hand it implies that it is good to keep ewes longer as it will be difficult to re-purchase at a later date. Alternatively, it provides an incentive to sell as the current prices provide a good opportunity for producers to get out of sheep. The age demographic of sheep producers means that this could be an important consideration for a number of producers nearing retirement age. Further information should be gathered on the characteristics of producers getting out of sheep to explore the hypothesis that older producers are selling sheep and moving into cattle.

In the case of wool, there has been a long period of low prices for producers initially driven by over supply and more recently the global economic crisis has led to reduced demand. Meanwhile, the rising Australian dollar has increased the price of wool to processers and consumers. For many sheep producers it appears that the lower wool price has been a further incentive to move out of Merino sheep. Most of the decrease in wool supply has been in the mid-micron wools (21-23 m) while the supply of fine and superfine wool has been relatively stable.

Download full report

Flock Projection Model

This model was developed to support a discussion paper prepared on the decline of the Australian sheep flock. Results prior to 2008-09 for calibration/validation.

The model estimates lambs marked from opening number, percent ewes in the flock, percent ewes that are mataed and marking percent (all user inputs).

Once you download the Flock Projection Model, save it to your hard drive and then open the Flock Projection Model tick the box 'enable this content' and click ok.

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Last changed: Feb 08 2012



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