One of the challenges to a recovery in wool production in Australia is the attractive alternative for growers to sell their lambs and sheep for meat production. This has intensified this year with the long-running drought in many regions in the eastern half of Australia.
The combination of the drought (which has reduced the number of lambs available both for flock rebuilding and for slaughter) and continuing growth in demand for lamb and sheepmeat (notably for export) has seen prices for both lamb and sheep hit record levels. Given the high cost of feeding sheep through the drought, growers will be sorely tempted to sell off their sheep. And that is what has been happening. There has been a sharp increase in the number of sheep slaughtered in Australia in the past 18 months. At the same time, there has been a steep drop in the number of sheep exported live due to the animal welfare issues and restrictions that have arisen. The number of lambs slaughtered is down a little this season, no doubt due to fewer lambs being available as a result of poor lambing rates due to the drought. Overall, there have been 63,000 more sheep and lambs turned-off in the first nine months of this season.
Further details including a chart showing the trends in prices for sheep and lambs in Australia since 1998 and another chart showing the trends in the slaughter and live exports of sheep and lambs over the past decade are provided in this week’s edition of the NCWSBA Weekly Newsletter. Available to NCWSBA members.