Call to action on sheep producer intentions survey

Sheep Central, May 11, 2023

AUSTRALIA’S sheep producers are being encouraged to make a special effort to complete the producer intention surveys run by Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation.

A bigger producer response to the redesigned and now shorter survey – 15 minutes versus 45 minutes — is now vital to ensure the sheep industry gets accurate data on producers’ intentions and the flock makeup.

The importance of the Sheep Producer Intentions PULSE survey (formally known as the MLA and AWI Sheepmeat and Wool survey), run three times a year, has been highlighted by the expected decline in Australian Bureau of Statistics data collection on agriculture.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported the response rates to its last Rural Environment and Agricultural Commodities Survey were lower than required and it will be released with a reduced set of data (i.e. no regional/statistical area data) in the future.

The ABS has also said its five-yearly agricultural census will be discontinued and official statistics will come from existing government data and data sourced from industry and commercially.

For sheep, this reduced the number of data points in the ABS 2021-2022 REAC survey from 12 — breaking flock numbers down to breeding ewes one year and over Merino and other, breeding ewes one year and over total, marked lambs under one year, ewes mated for total lambs, ewes mated to merino and other breed rams, Merino and non-Merino lambs marked and total sheep and lamb numbers) — to just one data point (sheep and lambs total) and only by state.

This means the final full ABS data set for that REAC survey will be from 2020-21 and now any industry data will be looked at to supplement data gaps.

To compensate for this and to improve MLA/AWI Producer Intensions PULSE Survey respondent rates, MLA market information analyst Jenny Lim said the survey has been redesigned.

The survey will now take only about 15 minutes to complete, rather than the previous 45 minutes, she said.

In previous surveys, there have been between 400-600 respondents nationally out of 35,000 producers emailed. There were more than 2000 respondents of 30,000 producers in the most recent 15-minute survey.

In the current May survey there have been just over 1200 respondents, but Ms Lim said if that could be increased it would increase the reliability of the intentions data obtained.

She said well-supported producer intentions surveys will be able to fill the gap left by the ABS survey, because it would show intentions and give a flock breakdown by breed, with ewe, lamb and wether numbers.

“I think if producers want accurate data to aid their decision making it’s important that we encourage them to fill out the survey.

“It’s more a call to action than a pointing fingers or anything like that,” she said.

“It’s now up to industry to provide that information so that the industry as a whole can be more productive and better informed.”

Ms Lim said the current survey closes officially on 16 May, although there will be some flexibility.

Rather than a fuel voucher sweetener for survey respondents, a personalised dashboard is being provided to every producer who completes the survey, enabling them to benchmark their answers to other producers in their area and state.

“I think allows producers to check their decision-making against their peers, but also to see what might be happening in their local market area as well as nationally,” Ms Lim said.

“It close that loop in terms of information and gives back to them for providing that vital information that we need.”

Click here to take the May sheep producer intentions survey and to see the results of previous surveys.


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