Domestic Lamb

WA sheep producer says $8.6m package is ‘a drop in the ocean’

Terry Sim, April 29, 2024

Wayne Smith.

AN $8.6 million Western Australian government assistance package for the state’s struggling sheep industry would not go far and was a “drop in the ocean” to what would be needed, a WA producer has warned.

Caluka Farms’ owner Wayne Smith was facing shooting some of his sheep earlier this month after being hit by the dry season and lack of demand.

However, although Mr Smith said he has “not yet” had to shoot sheep, he has had to sell thousands for a fraction of their value after the Federal Government dashed industry confidence with its decision to phase out live sheep exports by sea.

Mr Smith said he had completed the Dry Season Taskforce survey that is trying to assess the current situation of sheep producers, their intentions and needs.

“What they (the WA State Government) are offering is really small,” he said.

The $8.6 million assistance package announced last week includes $2 million in hardship grants and $4 million in interest-free loans for farmers impacted by drought, $1.5 million investment in community water infrastructure, $875,000 to support mental health and community wellbeing programs and $225,000 in donations for rural assistance charities. The WA Government also said primary producers facing financial hardship will be able to apply for up to $5000 per business to help cover the costs of stockfeed, water and transportation. Applications will open in May.

Mr Smith believed there was a case for Federal Government assistance, “because they’re the ones who caused it by destroying confidence in the industry by saying they were going to stop live sheep exports.”

“I know this because two days before the announcement I had sold sheep (young unjoined UltraWhite ewes) for $300 and $400 each and after the announcement the buyers cancelled it.

“So it has affected us very quickly and very strongly,” he said.

“And we got offered $500 for the ewes that were in lamb and I said ‘no, I’ve got enough money from the $300-$400 ones.

“It’s the Federal Government that has destroyed the confidence and that’s where the rot happened and the abattoirs made sure it happened by every one in the same week dropping their prices everywhere.”

Mr Smith said he had sold 2100 5-6 month-old store lambs, 1000 7-14 month-old breeding ewes “for a pittance” and 500 mutton. Recent prices received for his “best genetics” breeding ewes that were valued at $300-$500 before the live export phaseout announcement have ranged from $15-$25.

“We’ve got 1600 lambing ewes and ewe lambs, with about 2000 lambs on the ground, so that takes back to about 3500 total again, and I’ve got buyers coming tomorrow.

“We have had to sell the farm and we have got a good offer on that, it’s nearly finalised.”

Mr Smith said the $5000 per business to help cover the costs of stockfeed, water and transportation is “a pittance – it is not even a truck load of pellets.”

Federal Government can solve WA sheep industry problems

WAFarmers president John Hassell said some people will say the $8.6 million package is not enough and other will say it is too much.

“I think it is the right response at this stage of the game and encourages people to set themselves up for dry conditions in the future, so I don’t have a problem with that.

“But the problem is in a normal situation when things are dry we can put our sheep and cattle on a ship and send them overseas and the ships aren’t here because of the Federal Government’s policy, they’ve already stopped coming,” he said.

“So this is a Federal Government problem, the Federal Government should be trying to fix it.

“And they can do that with freight subsidies to the east, they can get the Qatar Airlines airfreight going and they can reinstate the live sheep trade and say it is not going to be banned,” Mr Hassell said.

“Those are the three things that need to happen, it’s pretty simple.”

Pastoralists and Graziers Association Livestock Committee chairman Chris Patmore said the PGA was generally not in favour of grants and subsidies because they interfere with market forces.

He said there was an oversupply of sheep on the WA market, with a lack of abattoir kill space and reduced live export demand.

“The seasonal conditions aren’t good, but the main problem is the lack of markets for our stock.

“If we could solve that problem the seasonal difficulties would fade into insignificance, because people with an oversupply of stock would be able to sell them,” he said.

“Having the government involved in our industry is not a good thing and the less they’ve got to do with it the better.

“Most of these problems we’ve got at the moment are cause by the Federal Government’s live export phaseout policy and also the lack of airfreight space for (Middle East kill or MK) bag lambs.”

However, Mr Patmore believed that any assistance should be coming from the Federal Government as well, “because they’re the ones generally that have caused the damage.”

“The WA state Agriculture Minister (Jackie Jarvis) is going to be criticised no matter which way she goes; either for wasting taxpayer money or if she does do anything, she will be criticised for that too,” he said.

“At least she is listening and having a try.”


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  1. Glenn Nix, April 29, 2024

    Why wont Albo tour WA farms and meatworks? Gutless ? Doesn’t care? Not worth the votes? Too far from Canberra? Not enough photo ops?

  2. Martin Moses, April 29, 2024

    Shame on the Labor Government for shutting down the sheep industry.
    More “woke” and totally unjustifiable decision making. I would have thought Labor would have a better handle on livestock enterprises. You employ enough turkeys.

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