Australian sheep Industry

A rally is being held in Fremantle to support live animal export on the 8th December 2013. In support of that rally I have put this information page together. Sheep producers and others have kindly supplied the photos in these articles. I don’t have any practical experience in sheep handling and the following  are  my observations of reading and speaking to producers.

There are

12,810 businesses in Australia which solely conduct Sheep production. (2013/14)1


6,754 which are businesses which produce sheep and cattle (2012/13)2

and another

19,169 properties which conduct either sheep and/or cattle production with grain production. (2012/13)3

Another source (MLA Fast facts sheep production) quotes 43,828 properties in Australia supporting sheep and lamb production in 2010/114

sheep population 001Source – MLA Fast Facts 2012 – Australia’s sheepmeat Industry

  • Australia supplied 7% of the worlds lamb and mutton supply in 20104
  • Sheepmeat industry accounts for 32% of all farms in Australia agricultural activity4

photo (5)_edited-1Figure 1 – The Iconic Red Kelpie herding ewes and lambs

Sheep Dec. 2013 010

Source – IBIS world. Sheep farming in Australia Oct 2013.
This chart was taken from a report that considered 12,810 Australian properties whose sole production was sheep.

Herd charts 003 Sheep_edited-1

Source Agricultural Commodity statistics 2012 – Dept Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry. Page 136

Wool crash occured 1990, many wool producers converted to meat production or diversified into cattle and cropping.

Some producers who remained in sheep meat production developed systems to target the Australian lamb processing markets and lessened their aim to the mutton trade. Some developed herds based on Damaras and aimed them to the live export markets.

There were significant drought periods 1979 – 1980, 1982-1983, 1990-1993, 2002-2008 and more recently in the last couple of years.

IMG_1669_edited-1Sheep grazing

sheep population 004Source – ‘Structure and dynamics of the Australian sheep industry’ Hassell 2006

sheep population 002Source – 2012 Year Book Australia – ABS. Sourced 01/08/2012 Pg 542

photo (7)_edited-1Younger sheep yarded.

Sheep Dec. 2013 006Comparing National herd to the slaughter of mutton and lamb to the numbers exported (mainly mature sheep)
This chart is only a basic indication as the herd and slaughter figures are based on calendar years while the Live export figures are from financial year calculations

Sheep Dec. 2013 002_edited-1

Comparative anlysis of only mature sheep slaughter compared to sheep live exported. Both are
calculated on a Financial Year
basis. I didn’t include lamb slaughter in this chart as I didn’t think animals marketed as lambs would be exported, their preference being the Australian processors outlets.

1002051_249524205211183_926170008_n Sheep pictured at sunset

Sheep Dec. 2013 005_edited-1Australian Sheep slaughter for sheep and lambs 1973 – 2011

Sheep Dec. 2013 003_edited-1Australian production in total of sheep meat (mutton from mature animals) with the comparative amount exported

Sheep Dec. 2013 004_edited-1

Australian production of young sheep (lamb meat) total production and compared with the volume exported.

photo (12)Home kill sheep hanging in a cool room

Sheep Dec. 2013 008_edited-1Live exported animals for the last 13 years or mortality rates recorded. This chart illustrates that in the last 13 years 959 voyages with sheep occured over which a total of 52,434,493 were loaded and exported. Of this 1.02% died in transit. For each trip conducted an average of 54,676 sheep were loaded of which approximately 558 died enroute per voyage.

Sheep Dec. 2013 001_edited-1

Average mortalities per year for the last 13 years or recorded data for mortalities.
Overall average for 13 years is 1.02% with an average of 4,033,422 animals loaded each yearSheep Dec. 2013 003_edited-1

This chart is comparing all sheep and lamb meat production (not animals volume) produced in comparison to live sheep exported over a the last 30 plus years. I have added trend lines to indicate that meat production has increased slightly from the 1975’s to current periods and Live export has declined

I am interested in this graph because one of the catch cry’s of the ban live export is that live export caused loss of supply to abattoirs and thus their closure. I find it interesting that production seems to have increased slightly even considering the drop in sheep herd populations from the heyday of the 70’s and the changes in animal production situations.

I am doing a similar chart for cattle but as yet haven’t finished it.


  1. ‘Sheep farming in Australia’ IBIS World. October 2013
  2. ‘sheep-Beef Cattle farming in Australia’ IBIS World December 2012
  3. ‘Grain-Sheep or Grain Beef farming in Australia’ IBIS World December 2012
  4. MLA Fast facts 2012. Australian Sheepmeat industry
Categories: #hadagutful campaign support, Australian abattoirs, Live Exports, Sheep industry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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