Australia’s sheep flock falls to lowest level since 1905

sheep livestock fence stock image

Australia’s sheep flock fell to its lowest level in 113 years with a fall of 7 per cent in 2018-19 to 66 million sheep, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Director of Agriculture Statistics, Sarah Kiely, said: “Worsening drought and lack of feed in the eastern states forced many sheep and cattle producers to destock with the national sheep flock at its lowest level since 1905. Following a similar pattern, the beef cattle herd reduced 6 per cent to 22 million head.”

Despite the tough conditions experienced by many farmers, the total value of Australian agriculture increased 3 per cent to $60 billion.

The increase came largely off the back of drought related destocking, with the total value of livestock disposals up 6 per cent to $21 billion. There was a 7 per cent increase in the value of cattle disposals, to $13 billion, while the value of sheep and lamb disposals was up 5 per cent to $4 billion.

Ms Kiely said the total value of crops also increased in 2018-19, up 1 per cent to $30 billion, with mixed results for key crops.

“The value of wheat increased 9 per cent to $6 billion, and barley was up 32 per cent to $3 billion, both driven by favourable farming conditions experienced in Western Australia,” she said.

“In contrast, limited water availability in the eastern states impacted cotton, down 55 per cent to $1 billion and rice, down 86 per cent to $34 million.”

Further information can be found in Agricultural Commodities, Australia, 2017-18 (cat. no. 7121.0); and Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2017-18 (cat. no. 7503.0).

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics