Australia’s sheep flock falls to lowest level since 1905


Australia’s sheep flock fell to its lowest level in 113 years with a fall of 7 per cent in 2018-19 to 66 million sheep, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Director of Agriculture Statistics, Sarah Kiely, said: “Worsening drought and lack of feed in the eastern states forced many sheep and cattle producers to destock with the national sheep flock at its lowest level since 1905. Following a similar pattern, the beef cattle herd reduced 6 per cent to 22 million head.”

Despite the tough conditions experienced by many farmers, the total value of Australian agriculture increased 3 per cent to $60 billion.

The increase came largely off the back of drought related destocking, with the total value of livestock disposals up 6 per cent to $21 billion. There was a 7 per cent increase in the value of cattle disposals, to $13 billion, while the value of sheep and lamb disposals was up 5 per cent to $4 billion.

Ms Kiely said the total value of crops also increased in 2018-19, up 1 per cent to $30 billion, with mixed results for key crops.

“The value of wheat increased 9 per cent to $6 billion, and barley was up 32 per cent to $3 billion, both driven by favourable farming conditions experienced in Western Australia,” she said.

“In contrast, limited water availability in the eastern states impacted cotton, down 55 per cent to $1 billion and rice, down 86 per cent to $34 million.”

Further information can be found in Agricultural Commodities, Australia, 2017-18 (cat. no. 7121.0); and Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2017-18 (cat. no. 7503.0).

Media note

These results are for the 2018-19 financial year and pre-date the impact of bushfires on parts of New South Wales and Queensland during the summer of 2019-20.

The ABS is continuing to monitor potential impacts from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on agricultural related statistics, and will continue to do so for the duration of the pandemic.

For the 2018-19 reference period, COVID-19 did not impact data collection activities related to agricultural commodities and their gross value or the use of water on farms.

For media enquiries and interview requests contact the ABS media team:

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