Live Export

WA flock downturn confirmed in producer intentions survey

Sheep Central July 10, 2024

WA sheep producers have confirmed their intentions to drop ewe numbers.

WESTERN Australia’s flock downturn has been confirmed in the latest Sheep Producer Intentions survey figures, with wool and sheep meat producers surveyed in the state reporting the strongest negative sentiments.

MLA said producers have cited the volatility of prices, operating conditions and concerns around the live sheep export ban from 1 May 2028 as contributing to their sentiment in this survey.

The survey showed that 19 percent of producers nationally said that government policies are impacting their on-farm decision-making — 12pc on account of the Albanese Government’s live sheep export ban decision and 7pc attributed government policies generally.

MLA manager for market information Stephen Bignell noted that the intention to reduce breeding ewe numbers was strongest in Western Australia.

“Western Australian producers are forecasting a decrease in breeding ewe flock numbers in the next 12 months, a result which may have ongoing impacts for the national flock.”

Of the 606 WA producers surveyed, their nett sentiment about the wool industry scored at -38, but at -64 in regard to the sheep meat industry.

The survey indicates that the WA ewe flock is expected to decline 27 percent from 9.07 million this year to 6.63 million next year, a fall of 2.43 million.

The ewe flocks in all states are expected to decline according to the survey conducted by Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation.

Western Australia’s wether flocks is expected to drop 49pc from 1.54 million this year to 787,388 in 2025. The only state whose wether flock is forecast to rise is Queensland, where a 6pc increase to 487,593 is expected.

The survey indicated that of the estimated 47.9 million breeding ewes on hand in Australia, 61pc are Merinos, with about 27pc traditional prime lamb producing ewes. MLA said 42pc of survey respondents indicated they were likely to have fewer breeding ewes next year, and 22pc said they would have more, and 36pc would be unchanged. The national ewe flock expected to drop 9pc to 43.5 million next year.

Improved commodity prices have helped

MLA said the survey showed that Australian sheep producers’ confidence continues to be impacted by broader climatic and market conditions.

However, sentiment has improved in the among sheep producers since the last survey in October 2023, with sentiment rising by 46 points to a nett sentiment score of +4, with this result attributable to improved commodity prices over the Summer, MLA said.

Wool producers nationally recorded a more pessimistic opinion of the industry compared to the last survey, down 9 points to a nett sentiment of -24. This was due to producers considering potentially worsening weather conditions in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

Despite sheep producers recording an increase in sentiment compared to the most recent survey, this is well below the result recorded in May 2023 of +27 nett sentiment.

Mr Bignell said there are several factors that led to the survey result.

“Price volatility, inconsistent weather and various political discussions have had a varied impact on producer sentiment across the country.

“Producers in Queensland (+33), New South Wales (+21) and Victoria (+12) had positive outlooks for the industry, while producers in South Australia (-1), Tasmania (-5) and Western Australia (-64) had negative outlooks,” Mr Bignell said.

“It is evident from the feedback provided and analysis undertaken that producers around Australia are feeling pressure from a range of factors, and some regions are experiencing this more acutely.

“Feedback was sought from producers over the period 1 May to 3 June 2024,” he said.

“During this period, the Australian Government announced that it would introduce legislation to phase out the exporting of live sheep by sea by 2028.

“This has had an impact on sentiment not only in Western Australia, but in other states as well.”

MLA said the May 2024 survey had a specific focus on understanding the profile of Australia’s breeding ewes and wether flocks.

Producers were also asked their total numbers of wethers and lambs (excluding ewe lambs and hoggets intended for breeding). As of 30 April 2024, producers recorded 8.6 million wethers and 14 million lambs.

The Sheep Producer Intentions Survey was designed by MLA and AWI to support the industry with reliable data and is used by MLA and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It is one of the inputs into the MLA sheepmeat industry forecasting models.

To view the full results please visit: Sheep Producers Intentions Survey May 2024


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