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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 to a peak of 31.8 mill. in 1976 after which time seasonal conditions and profitability saw numbers drop dramatically. For the five years from 1984 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 a high of 27.9 mill. in 2002. Dry conditions over much of the country in 2002-03 saw cattle numbers fall but improved conditions in some regions in the following two years resulted in small increases in the national herd.
Graph 16.28 shows total cattle (milk and meat) numbers in Australia from 1886 to 2006.
Sheep numbers reached a peak of 180 mill. in Australia in 1970. 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. By 30 June 2003, sheep and lambs had fallen to 99.3 mill. with numbers being severely affected by drought conditions throughout much of the country. At 30 June 2006, flock numbers were at 92.7 mill. head. New South Wales carries the most stock with 31.7 mill. head followed by Western Australia (23.3 mill.) and Victoria (18.3 mill.) (table 16.27).
Graph 16.29 shows total sheep and lamb numbers in Australia from 1906 to 2006.
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. 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.
In 2006, pigs numbered 2.8 mill. head with Queensland the dominant state (717,000 head), just ahead of New South Wales (666,000) and Victoria (633,000) (table 16.27).
Poultry farming is also 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. In June 2006, poultry farmers were holding 77.4 mill. chickens for meat production and 16.2 mill. for egg production.
Dairying is a major Australian agricultural industry. The estimated gross value of dairy production at farm-gate prices in 2005-06 was $3,343m (table 16.30), which was a 5% increase on the previous year and represented 9% of the gross value of agricultural production.
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.
Average annual per person milk consumption has stabilised at around 100 litres since the mid-1980s. According to Dairy Australia data for 2005-06, Australians consumed 101 litres of milk, 11.8 kilograms of cheese, 6.7 kilograms of yoghurt and 3.9 kilograms of butter/blends per person.
In 2006-07 Australia exported dairy products valued at $2.3b (1.3% of total merchandise exports). Milk, cream and milk products (excluding butter and cheese) contributed $1.3b, while cheese and curd, and butter and other fats and oils derived from milk brought in $827m and $179m respectively.
Tables 16.31 and 16.32 show details of slaughtering and meat production from abattoirs, and from commercial poultry and other slaughtering establishments. They include estimates of animals slaughtered on farms and by country butchers. The data relate only to slaughtering for human consumption and do not include animals condemned or those killed for boiling down.
Production of beef in 2006-07 increased by 7% to 2,196,000 tonnes (table 16.31).
Changing patterns in both consumer demand, and sheep and lamb supply have seen production of lamb meat exceed production of mutton for each of the past eight years. In 2006-07, the trend continued with lamb production up 31,000 tonnes (8%) to 413,000 tonnes while mutton production increased 27,000 tonnes (11%) to 271,000 tonnes.
Significant changes have taken place in the pig meat producing industry in recent years. Capital investment and corporate takeovers have seen the emergence of a few large companies producing a significant proportion of all pig meat sold in Australia. These moves, and the trend to more intensive and efficient production techniques, have seen pig meat production rise steadily since the mid-1970s when production dipped to a low of 174,000 tonnes. In 2006-07, pig meat production fell 2% to 382,000 tonnes.
Table 16.33 shows the gross value of livestock slaughterings over recent years. Following five years of increases, the total value of slaughterings and other disposals decreased by 7% in 2002-03. The 2005-06 value of total slaughterings and other disposals was 12% above the 2002-03 level despite a small fall on the 2004-05 value. Sheep and lamb slaughterings increased 8% in 2005-06.
The biggest customers for Australian beef in recent years have been Japan, the United States of America and the Republic of (South) Korea. In 2006-07, Japan imported the most Australian beef with 413,900 tonnes, 3% more than the previous year's shipments. The United States of America was Australia's next best customer with 304,600 tonnes, an increase of 2% on the previous year. The Republic of (South) Korea purchased 173,700 tonnes.
Table 16.35 shows the number, gross weight, gross value and unit value of live sheep and cattle exported for slaughter. The number of live sheep exported for slaughter in 2006-07 declined 3% to 4,137,900 after a 31% increase the previous year. The number of live cattle exported for slaughter in 2006-07 increased 16% to 638,000 head, the highest level since 2002-03.
Australia is the world's largest wool producer, accounting for about a quarter of total production. Wool production has been declining in Australia and the world for the past ten years. Since 1990 Australian wool production has halved, to around 534,000 tonnes in 2005-06. Almost all of Australia's wool is exported, the major markets being China, Italy, India and Taiwan.
Graph 16.36 shows total wool production for the years 1906 to 1973 and then shorn wool from 1974 onwards.
The gross value of wool produced in 2005-06 fell 5% to $2,092.5m (table 16.37), about a third the value recorded in 1988-89 ($5.9b), the peak year in the wool boom of the 1980s.
The total amounts of taxable wool received by brokers and purchased by dealers in recent years are shown in table 16.38. They exclude wool received by brokers on which tax had already been paid by other dealers (private buyers) or brokers.