Industry update: live sheep export #4

Page last updated: Monday, 28 October 2019 - 3:39pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is continuing to monitor and respond to changes in the live export environment which impact the Western Australian sheep industry.

Live export regulation

In a recent development, the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) has approved the export licence of Rural Export and Trading WA, the exporter for the Kuwait Livestock and Transport and Trading, which is a positive step for the WA sheep industry.

This comes on the back of DAWR’s announced changes to export conditions outside the northern hemisphere summer which will remain until the new Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) are in place.

The intent is to require journeys from 1 November 2018 to implement:

  • a 17.5 per cent reduction in the stocking density required by the ASEL for sheep consignments to the Middle East
  • independent auditing of vessel pen air turnover readings to confirm the data entered into the industry heat stress risk assessment model is accurate.

For full details, see official media statement released by DAWR on 12 October.

The review of the ASEL and the further consultation and testing of the heat stress risk assessment model are underway and are due to be completed by the end of 2018. DPIRD has submitted a response to the ASEL review.

Live Export Sheep Industry Reference Group

The department’s Live Export Reference Group held its second meeting earlier this month to discuss the latest developments and guide the department’s activity to support the WA sheep industry.

Attending members included DPIRD chair Bruce Mullan, producer representatives Murray Hall of Brookton, John Wallace of Esperance and Steven Bolt of Corrigin; and sheep industry representatives Bindi Murray with Sheep Producers Australia, meat industry consultant Peter Trefort and Dean Hubbard from Elders. Executive support was provided by DPIRD sheep industry development officer Mandy Curnow

The reference group is exploring the impacts of the current season in Western Australia and interstate, the flow-on impact of the 2017 spring and 2018 autumn to marking rates this year on lamb supply in the short term and demand for breeding ewes in the longer term.

A presentation from the Agri-finance Alliance on behalf of financial institutions advised that further information was needed to build a better understanding of the complexities and importance of sheep businesses to regional Western Australia. The reference group also supports this view and the need for a study to demonstrate the value of the sheep industry to the regional economy and social infrastructure, and the importance of growing the State’s sheep flock.

DPIRD activity

Modelling and analysis by DPIRD’s Kate Pritchett will be undertaken over the coming months on the impacts on the WA flock over the next five and 10 years with:

  • an increase in the proportion of wethers from 7% to 15% at the expense of breeding ewes;
  • an increase in Merino ewe matings to Merino sires (due to continued high wool prices) and a decrease in matings to terminal sires (due to  continued high prices for lamb)
  • a significant increase in the numbers of sheep transferred to the eastern states, and particularly the expected demand for breeding ewes once the drought breaks.

Given widescale reports of significantly lower marking rates and high ewe mortality for the 2018 season, the reference group also recommends DPIRD work with grower groups and the Australian Association of Agricultural Consultants (AAAC) to collect data on the number of lambs available for turn off and breeding.  This data will provide a more accurate estimate for modelling of changes in the WA flock and the impact on processing.

Producers are encouraged to answer a short survey of four questions on 2018 lamb marking at

We are keen to hear from producers across the agricultural region, as it is important to understand the overall impact on the state flock as well as any regional differences.