Flock set to defy hurdles

TASMANIA’S sheep flock is expected to grow by 5 per cent in the next year on the back of overall industry confidence, according to the latest research.

The new Sheep Producer Intentions survey was commissioned by Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation.

It has revealed that Tasmania’s sheep flock, which currently sits at around 840,000, is expected to expand, with about 47 per cent of producers looking to increase the sheep side of their operations.

The make up of the state sheep flock has also been investigated.

Merinos now account for 27 per cent of the flock, while prime lamb sheep make up 53 per cent and first cross sheep 15 per cent.

This trend towards more prime lamb sheep is in contrast to the national flock make up which includes 40 per cent Merinos and 35 per cent prime lamb breeds.

The nationwide survey found that two-thirds of Australian sheepmeat producers are positive about the industry MLA Market Analyst Jenny Lim said a new format for 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 per cent of producers said that saleyard auctions were the main channel used, with over-the-hooks sales the second most used method at 23 per cent.”

In addition, larger producers with 10,000 or more sheep are more likely to use direct sales.

The survey noted that 46 per cent of producers are looking to increase their flocks in 2023 with 60 per cent hoping to expand operations and 47 per cent expecting favourable conditions in the next 12 months.

“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 per cent 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.”

When it comes to 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 per cent net positive rating among sheepmeat producers across Australia.

“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.