Live sheep exporters expected to head east for future supply

Sheep Central, November 5, 2015
Australia exported 284,949 sheep in July. Image: Flickr: StephenMitchell

Merino wethers being trucked for live export loading. Image: Flickr: StephenMitchell

LIVE sheep exporters will increasingly venture into Australia’s eastern states to source supply, acting chairman of the Western Australian Livestock Exporters Association Harold Sealy said this week.

As the industry continues to grow, more than 80 percent of Australia’s live sheep for export is still coming from Western Australia and are shipped from Fremantle.

However, ABS figures in Livecorp and Meat and Livestock Australia’s latest statistical review show that exporters in 2014-15 have sourced almost three times more sheep from South Australia than in the previous financial year.

SheepLiveExports State Nov5-15Mr Sealy said WA live exporters have had more competitors for lambs in the past 12 months; especially from WA processors and including to develop the chilled lamb air freight market.

Mr Sealy said the short season in WA also forced many producers to sell four and five-year-old ewes and store lambs earlier this year, albeit into a solid market.

“We’ve also seen a lot higher turn-off, particularly of mutton.”

The size of the WA flock and competition for lambs and sheep would mean live exporters would increasingly seek supplies from eastern states, he said.

Mr Sealy said stock water supplies were “critical” after there was little run-off in the state’s previously “safest” area, the Great Southern region.

He said the eastern states were more traditionally wool-growing areas, where producers were prepared to hold sheep longer for wool production.

“Whereas WA is trending towards a younger sheep market.”

Live sheep exports grew by 9pc last financial year

The latest industry review shows that sheep exports rose 9 percent to 2.18 million head in 2014-15 and were worth A$244 million (FOB – free on board). Cattle exports rise 22pc to 1.38 million head and were worth A$1.35 billion. Australian live goat exports for 2014-15 reached 90,950 head, up 12pc on 2013-14, and were valued at A$9.6 million.

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the positive results reflected strong ongoing demand for Australian livestock in existing markets, as well as the development of newer trading opportunities.

“Australian exporters and livestock producers have a reputation as the world’s leading suppliers of high quality cattle, sheep and goats, backed by a supply chain which boasts unrivalled animal welfare standards.

“Exporters and producers are being rewarded for their hard work with these positive trade results and as access to new markets is improved, coupled with the industry’s ongoing commitment to animal welfare, ALEC is confident the livestock export industry has a bright future.”

The largest export state for live sheep during 2014-15 was Western Australia, shipping 1.78 million head, worth A$189 million FOB. The second largest export state was South Australia (325,242 head), followed by Victoria with 57,801 head.

SheepLiveExports Port Nov5-15However, Western Australia’s share of the live sheep supply dropped by 3.2pc to 81.8pc, with South Australia’s supplying 14.9pc, up from 5.2pc in 2013-14. Victoria’s share of the live exports dropped from 9.3pc to 2.7pc.

Most of the increased live export sheep from the eastern states were shipped from Port Adelaide in 2014-15, while shipments out of Portland in Victoria declined from 9.1pc of the national total in 2013-14 to 1.9pc.

Kuwait is still Australia’s largest market

The Middle East accounted for 97pc of Australian live sheep exports for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Kuwait remained the largest market for Australian live sheep in 2014-15, at 616,842 head, back 19pc on 2013-14, and was valued at A$66 million.

Australian live goat exports for 2014-15 reached 90,950 head, up 12pc on 2013-14, and were valued at A$9.6 million. During 2014-15, the largest export market for live goats was Malaysia, at 87,991 head, up 45pc year-on-year, which accounted for 97pc of total exports for the fiscal year.

South Australia was the largest export state for live goats in 2014-15, exporting 44,541 head, valued at A$3.7 million, followed by NSW, shipping 39,027 head, valued at A$4.2 million.

Ms Penfold said the results were particularly timely given the livestock export industry is preparing for its national conference, LIVEXchange, in Darwin on November 25-26.

LIVEXchange 2015 will be provide a rare opportunity for over 300 producers, exporters, international customers, logistics suppliers and other trade services and stakeholders to come together under one roof to discuss, debate and network on key issues confronting the Australian live trade’s future.

This biennial event is a partnership between ALEC, LiveCorp and the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association (NTLEA). Registrations are now open at

The full MLA/LiveCorp livestock export report for 2014/2014 is available here.



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  1. Brenton Hinkley, November 10, 2015

    Live exporters are now paying less for sheep than when the dollar was US100 cents.If they were willing to pay a proper price instead of screwing the price down, they would find farmers would run sheep for them. At the moment in Western Australia, it is more profitable to sell as trade lamb or air freight.

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