Australian Agriculture: Livestock

Latest release

Statistics on value of principal livestock disposals and products and the cattle herd

Reference period
2022-23 financial year
Next release Unknown
First release

Key statistics

  • Local value of livestock disposals decreased 1% to $23.3 billion in 2022-23
  • Local value of poultry slaughtered increased by 15.6%  to $3.6 billion 
  • There were 29.9 million cattle on holding at 30 June 2023 with 27.8 million beef cattle and 2.1 million dairy cattle.

Using new data sources and methods to produce agricultural statistics

This publication marks the first release of agricultural statistics produced using new methods and data sources

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is modernising the way official agricultural statistics are produced to better support Australian agriculture. New data sources will support improved regional detail on an annual basis. This helps to understand impacts from biosecurity and climate risks as well as supply chain and infrastructure requirements and supports decision making by governments, industry, and farmers.

These changes were outlined in early 2023 in Modernising ABS Agriculture Statistics which explained why the ABS is modernising its Agriculture Statistics Program and the guiding principles being followed.

A key part of the modernisation has been the development of partnerships with industry and government to identify new data sources and develop new statistical methods. This has reduced reporting burden on farmers and created greater consistency between existing data sources which helps to build trust in the statistics.

A red meat statistics working group comprised of industry and government experts has been supporting the development of new methods to produce estimates of cattle and sheep numbers.

This release includes an experimental estimate of the number of cattle in Australia that provides a more complete estimate of total cattle in Australia compared with past survey estimates which did not include cattle on smaller farms.

The ABS is continuing work with the red meat statistics working group to further refine the estimate of the number of cattle in Australia as it gains access to additional data sources over the next 18 months. The ABS is also working to develop an estimate of the number of sheep in Australia for the Australian Agriculture: Livestock 2023-24 release.

For further information on the methods and data sources used to produce the statistics contained in this publication please see the Methodology section.

Livestock disposals and livestock products

The local value of livestock disposals decreased 1% to $23.3 billion in 2022-23. Lower rainfall through the early stages of 2023 reduced producer confidence, resulting in volatile market conditions and affecting prices for red meat throughout the second half of the year.

Key livestock results for 2022-23:

  • $13.9 billion for cattle and calves (down 2.4% from 2021-22)
  • $4.1 billion for sheep and lambs (down 9.1%)
  • $3.6 billion for poultry (up 15.6%)
  • $1.5 billion for pigs (up 6.8%)
  • $3.0 billion for wool (down 3.2%)
  • $6.1 billion for milk (up 24.8%).

Cattle on holding experimental estimates

Beef cattle experimental estimates

Nationally, there were an estimated 27.8 million beef cattle on holding at 30 June 2023, an increase of 4.6% from 2022 following favourable seasonal conditions in most cattle regions. Herd rebuild occurred in Queensland, the largest contributing state to the Australian cattle population, where cattle numbers increased by 4.2% to 13.2 million head. The beef cattle numbers also increased in New South Wales by 6.2% to 5.9 million and Victorian by 5% to 2.9 million.

Beef cattle estimates have been calculated using new methods and data sources. For further information please see the Methodology section.

  1. Australian Capital Territory data included in New South Wales

Dairy cattle

There were an estimated 2.1 million dairy cattle at 30 June 2023, down 4% from 2022. Victoria has the largest dairy herd with 1.2 million head, down 4.8% from the previous year.

The dairy industry continues to see challenging conditions with rapidly rising production costs and labour shortages leading to a general reduction in the dairy herd. This has coincided with a strengthening of milk prices across the country.

Dairy cattle has been calculated using a new sources and methods for 2023. For further information please see the Methodology section.

How the modelled cattle estimates were created

Estimates for the 2023 cattle herd were modelled using new sources and methods. As a result, both the beef cattle and total cattle herd estimates are higher than estimates previously published by the ABS which were produced using farm surveys which did not include cattle held on smaller farms (with an estimated value of agricultural operations below $40,000). The extent of this change is outlined in the Methodology section.

The beef cattle herd is calculated using a similar approach to that of the ABS Estimated Resident Population (ERP), taking closing stock from the previous period, adding population inflows (using existing non-ABS data sources to estimate new calves), subtracting population exits (slaughter, live exports and on farm deaths), to arrive at closing stock in the current period.

Adjusted estimates for 2019 to 2022, consistent with the modelled estimates produced for 2023 have been included in the data cube attached to this publication to help user interpret the 2023 estimates.

For further information see the Methodology section for details.

Understanding the accuracy of cattle herd estimates

The ABS is modernising the way we collect agriculture data with an administrative data first approach. As a result, the cattle herd estimates are no longer calculated using a directly collected survey, rather they have been calculated using a new modelled approach that uses a range of new data sources.

As part of the modelling process, the ABS has engaged with external data providers and commonwealth, state and territory agricultural departments to help ensure the accuracy of estimates by identifying, investigating, and rectifying improbable calf numbers within the herd. The estimates are consistent with related data sources on cattle fertility, slaughter and herd age structure. Externally sourced data has been used only where accuracy can be reasonably measured and verified as part of the quality assurance processes. As a result, the estimates can be considered fit for use.

The estimates are labelled as experimental because the ABS intends to further refine this approach utilising additional data sources and further input from industry experts.

There are significant differences between the new experimental estimates and previously published data. Due to the significant differences, this publication includes adjusted estimates that align with new methods from 2019 to 2022 to help users interpret the 2023 estimates.

Data downloads

Livestock disposals and products by Australia, state and territory - 2022-23

Cattle herd experimental estimates by Australia, state and territory - 2022-23

Cattle herd experimental and historical estimates by Australia, state and territory – 2005 to 2023

Changes in this and forthcoming issues

This publication, along with Australian Agriculture: Broadacre Crops and Australian Agriculture: Horticulture, have replaced the now discontinued Agricultural Commodities, Australia, and Value of Agriculture Commodities Produced, Australia.

While all three releases will be published together for 2022-23 estimates, subsequent issues will be staggered to facilitate more timely release of data. The next edition of Australian Agriculture: Livestock is expected to be released in late 2024.

Post release changes

17/07/2024 – Wool estimates for 2022-23 have been revised to include wool on skin which had not been included in the wool totals and were inconsistent with wool estimates presented for previous years. Estimates have been revised in both the commentary and in the data cube: Livestock disposals and products by Australia, state and territory - 2022-23 data download. 

12/07/2024 - A data cube containing an extended time series of cattle herd data has been added to the "Data downloads" section. The data cube contains experimental cattle herd estimates for 2005 to 2022, consistent with the modelled estimates produced for 2023. Previously released survey-based cattle estimates for 2005 to 2022 have also been included in the data cube to help user interpret the 2023 estimates.

For further information see the Methodology section for details.

Thank you

The ABS would like to thank members of industry, government, and academia, who collaborated with the ABS and contributed to development of the cattle herd models, used to produce cattle on holding estimates without the need to survey farmers.

The ABS also thanks those businesses who completed an agriculture survey in 2022-23.




  • Local value of livestock disposals
  • Local value of wool and milk
  • Experimental livestock herd estimates for cattle.


Data is available for

  • Australia
  • States and territories.


Key data sources include:

  • Commercial abattoirs and meat processors
  • DAFF agricultural levy transaction records.

Collection method

Wool estimates are derived from DAFF agricultural levy records, extracted quarterly.

Livestock disposals are derived from the Livestock Products Quarterly Survey.

Livestock herd estimates are modelled using a number of inputs.

Concepts, sources and methods

Livestock herd refers to livestock on holding at 30 June.

Livestock disposals refers to value of livestock and poultry slaughtered between 1 July and 30 June.

Value of livestock products refers to value of milk and wool sold between 1 July and 30 June.

History of changes

Not applicable for this release.

View full methodology
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