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Cattle, sheep and pigs are the main livestock grown in Australia and have been present since the earliest days of European settlement. Table 14.41 provides details of livestock numbers from 1861.
Cattle farming occurs in all states and territories. While dairy cattle are restricted mainly to southern and coastal districts, beef cattle are concentrated in Queensland and New South Wales.
Cattle numbers in Australia increased slowly during the 1960s and 1970s, despite seasonal changes and heavy slaughterings, to a peak of 33.4 million in 1976. Beef cattle production is often combined with cropping, dairying and sheep. In the northern half of Australia, cattle properties and herd sizes are very large, pastures are generally unimproved, fodder crops are rare and beef is usually the only product. The industry is more intensive in the south, with higher stocking rates per hectare, improved pastures and use of fodder crops, use of rotational grazing practices and increased inputs such as fertiliser and animal health products.
Drought conditions in the early-1980s led to a decline in the beef herd until 1984. For the next five years the size of the herd remained relatively stable. Between 1989 and 1998 cattle numbers increased gradually, despite unfavourable weather conditions continuing in many parts of Australia. After a slight decline in 1999, cattle numbers increased to 27.9 million in 2002. Dry conditions over much of the country in 2002-03 has seen cattle numbers fall by 4% to 26.7 million.
Table 14.42 shows the number of cattle by age, sex and purpose, and table 14.43 shows the number of cattle by state and territory.
Dairying is a major Australian agricultural industry. The estimated gross value of dairy production at farm gate prices in 2002-03 was $2,795m (tables 14.6 and 14.44). This represented 9% of the gross value of agricultural production. The number of milk cattle in 2003, at 3 million was 3% less than in 2002 (table 14.42).
Most dairy production occurs in high rainfall coastal fringe areas where climate and natural resources allow production to be based on year-round pasture grazing. This enables efficient, low-cost milk production. With the exception of several inland river schemes, pasture growth generally depends on natural rainfall. Feedlot-based dairying is expanding, although it remains uncommon.
Milk production rose steadily until 1999-2000. Less favourable seasonal conditions and farm exits associated with deregulation of the milk industry saw production decrease by 3% to 10,545 million litres in 2000-01, before recovering to 11,271 million litres in 2001-02. Dry seasonal conditions, limiting the growth of pastures and the availability of fodder crops, has seen milk production fall to 10,326 million litres in 2002-03 (table 14.44).
Domestic dairy market
Average annual per person milk consumption has stabilised at around 100 litres since the mid-1980s. According to Dairy Australia data for 2002-03, Australians consumed 97 litres of milk, 12.0 kilograms of cheese and 5.4 kilograms of yoghurt per person.
In 2003-04 Australia exported dairy products valued at $2.1b (1.9% of total merchandise exports). Milk and cream and milk products (excluding butter and cheese) contributed $1.2b while cheese and curd, and butter and other fats and oils derived from milk brought in $737m and $183m respectively.
Sheep numbers reached a peak of 180 million in Australia in 1970 (graph 14.48). In general, numbers have fallen since then. Poor market prospects for wool after 1990 had a marked impact on the flock size with sheep numbers falling rapidly until 1995, after which there was a gradual decline until 1999 (tables 14.45 and 14.46). By 30 June 2003, sheep and lambs had fallen to 99.3 million with numbers being severely affected by drought conditions throughout much of the country.
Map 14.47 shows the distribution of sheep and lambs in Australia at 30 June 2001.
14.47 SHEEP AND LAMBS, Distribution - 30 June 2001(a)
(a) This map has been generated using Agricultural Census data at the Statistical Local Area level for 2000-01.
Source: AgStats on GSP (7117.0.30.001) CD-ROM product 1996-97 to 2000-01.
Pig farming is a highly intensive industry. The majority of pigs are grown in specially designed sheds which provide a controlled environment conducive to the efficient production of large numbers of animals. The number of pigs decreased by 10% to 2.7 million at 30 June 2003 with the industry largely affected by the increased feed grain costs due to shortages caused by the drought. The number of establishments reporting pigs fell by 12% to 2,900 at 30 June 2003. Recent changes in the Australian pig industry have seen many smaller producers leave the industry and existing producers increase their size of operations in an attempt to remain viable.
Table 14.49 shows New South Wales is the largest producer of pigs, followed by Queensland and Victoria.
Poultry farming is a highly intensive industry, with the majority of poultry raised in large sheds which provide the birds with a stable environment protected from the elements. The poultry farming industry consists of two streams - meat production and egg production - both being major users of feed grains. Although the industry has grown over recent years, there was a decline in 2001-02 and 2002-03 with poultry numbers falling by 1% to 85.5 million birds at 30 June 2003 (table 14.50).