Breeding ewes spring into action

Breeding ewes spring into action

Australian sheep producers have reported a total breeding flock of 42.5 million head, an increase of 500,000 ewes since last year, according to Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Australian Wool Innovation’s (AWI) Wool and Sheepmeat Survey Report for June 2022.

MLA and AWI’s Wool and Sheepmeat Survey is run three times a year and collects sheepmeat industry livestock numbers and lamb production expectations.

Production and producer intentions are regularly monitored to generate better forward-looking information that allow producers to make the most efficient decisions, with the results of these surveys forming the basis of MLA’s industry projections.

Merinos accounted for 72% of the total breeding ewe flock. Merino breeding ewes were further divided into Merino ewes for pure bred Merino production and Merino ewes for crossbred production and ‘other’ Merinos, accounting for 51%, 19% and 2% of the merino flock respectively.

There were 22 million lambs on hand reported by Australian producers. Merinos made up 55% of the total lamb flock, at 12 million head, followed by First Cross and Pure Meat lambs – accounting for 19% and 17% of the national lamb flock respectively.

The breeding ewe population was largest in the Great Southern region of Western Australia at 5.6 million, Central West NSW at 5 million and Southeast NSW at 4.8 million. While the number of lambs on hand in the survey was greatest in Central West NSW at 3.1 million. This was followed by southern WA at around 2.7 million head.

MLA Senior Market Information Analyst Ripley Atkinson said the desire to retain breeding ewe populations stemmed from stellar growing seasons, particularly in the eastern states.

“Compared to the last survey released in February of this year, 27% of producers surveyed said they would like to increase their ewe flock, while 60% indicated they would like to retain current numbers,” he said.

“The majority of this growth is coming from eastern Victoria, northern NSW and southern Queensland where there have been very wet conditions. This demonstrates plenty of confidence in the market with room for growth moving into spring.”

A total of 7.3 million lambs were marked in the four months. Merinos accounted for the largest proportion of lambs marked in the past four months at 47%. First cross breeds and Pure meat accounting for 28% and 18%, respectively.

While 7.6 million ewes were joined to produce the lambs that were marked in the past four months. National Merino marking rates were below that of non-merino breeds at 93% and 101% respectively.

A total number of 7.6 million lambs are expected to be sold in the next four months, approximately 34% of the total number of lambs on hand. Of these: Merino, First cross breeds and Pure Meat are expected to account for 36%, 29% and 23% of lamb sales respectively.

NSW and Victoria are expected to account for 48% and 18% of total lamb sales over the next four months, with around 5m lambs expected to be on offer in both states.

This is followed by Western Australia and South Australia at 13% and 12% of total lamb sales, respectively.

“With the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting strong seasonal conditions for the eastern states as the new season lambs hit the market, the signs are looking positive for the Australian sheepmeat industry,” Mr Atkinson said.

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