Nearly half of Australian sheep producers are looking to increase the size of their flocks in the next 12 months, according to the first Sheep Producer Intentions survey (formally known as the MLA and AWI Sheepmeat and Wool survey).
The joint report was commissioned by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and released today. It surveyed 1,963 sheepmeat and wool producers between 29 September and 4 October 2022. Producers were initially invited to complete an online survey with the final sample complemented with a smaller number of phone interviews.
MLA Market Analyst Jenny Lim noted that the new format of the survey allowed for a deeper understanding of the breed makeup of the flock.
“The new survey format also analysed sales channels used by producers across different states and farm size,” Ms Lim said.
“Saleyards continue to be the dominant sales channel for producers, further highlighting the importance of saleyards for the industry.
“Specifically, 58% of producers said that saleyard auctions were the main channel used, with over-the-hooks sales the second most used method at 23%.”
In addition, larger producers with 10,000 or more sheep are more likely to use direct sales. New South Wales had the strongest saleyard usage with 73% of producers using this channel for sheep and lamb sales.
The survey noted that 46% of producers are looking to increase their flocks in 2023 with 60% hoping to expand operations and 47% expecting favourable conditions in the next 12 months.
Strong growth expectations are being seen in Queensland and New South Wales, with larger producers indicating an intention to increase or maintain their flock numbers.
“Analysis of the reported change in the number of lambs suggests a forecast increase of approximately 1.7 million lambs over the estimated 2022 flock size, an increase of 6% on the 2022 Estimates,” Ms Lim said.
“This result highlights the importance of considering the reported changes in flock size rather than just producers’ disposition to change.”
Regarding potential industry hurdles, the majority of producers surveyed are expecting an increase in input costs and finding skilled labour to be more difficult in the next 12 months.
Despite these headwinds, the sentiment around the sheepmeat industry is extremely positive moving forward, with a 67% net positive rating among sheepmeat producers across Australia.
“With Merinos making up 40% of the total lamb flock and prime lambs at 35%, the challenges around costs and labour seem to have less of an impact on decision making around flock growth than may have been previously expected,” said Ms Lim.