Managing sheep intended for live export

The department’s sheep team is working to support WA producers to manage the impact of the recent regulatory and market changes in the live export trade.

The team is focussing its efforts on research, development, modelling and analysis at both the pre-farmgate and throughout the supply chain to help reduce the impact on the sheep industry in the short and medium term.

A dedicated Sheep Industry Reference Group is also being established to provide advice on issues or opportunities to guide the department’s activity and ensure maximum benefit for the industry and the State.

The group will be chaired by the department’s Director of Livestock Research, Development and Innovation, Bruce Mullan, and include three members from the production sector of the live export industry and a further three key stakeholders from the sheep industry value chain.

Expressions of Interest were sought to determine the membership for this industry-led group which is expected to meet later this month.

The Reference Group will provide a valuable connection to industry though individual and joint networks, and encourage input and participation from producers and other stakeholders.

We are keen to work with highly experienced industry representatives who understand the sheep industry value chain, and the strategic challenges and opportunities within the sector.

Options for ‘shippers’

The department estimates up to 200,000 WA sheep had been destined for live export over coming months. This included approximately 55,000 sheep which had been scheduled for export to the Middle East on 24 June, some of which are still held in a registered feedlot at Baldivis.

It is unlikely there will be capacity to turn off a large number of shipping stock via live export before November 2018.

Producers have options available to manage these animals that were originally planned to be sold as ‘shippers’.

Some options are:

  • Retain and sell to the live export market when trade resumes – sheep need to be maintained at condition score 2 or higher
  • Retain for wool production in the longer term – adult sheep need to be maintained at condition score 2 or higher for good health and wool production
  • Sell all or some for slaughter as lightweight mutton
  • Sell lighter white tag lambs to the air freight market
  • Sell any heavier Merino lambs to slaughter while prices are good and processors are in short supply
  • Retain and then sell as heavy weight mutton – sheep need to reach fat score 3.

All decisions will have some impact on the farming enterprise and consideration should be given to the impacts on stocking rate and available pasture for lactating ewes; stocking rate over summer, available feed for growing weaners; and cash flow.

Feed requirements

To maintain adult sheep in condition score 2, energy is the most important input. Most green pastures and feed will have enough protein to allow good health.

Feed on Offer or FOO (kgDM/ha)

Supplementary feed with 8MJ/kg (kg/hd/d)

Cost with $400/kg ration*


In confinement










None required


For lighter or hogget wethers to gain weight or condition, energy is still the most important requirement. For Merino wethers to grow at 150g/hd/day, it will take approximately five weeks for a 45kg wether to reach 50kg, assuming the diet has 10 per cent protein.

FOO (kgDM/ha)

Supplementary feed with 8MJ/kg (kg/hd/d)

Cost $400/tonne*


Cost to gain 5kg in 5 weeks      

In confinement
















*pellets @ $400/T and average intake from actively growing pasture

Useful links

Supplementary feeding and feed budgeting of sheep: a full explanation of the options and how to choose feed sources based on energy and cost

Lifetime Wool: Check your FOO using photo standards

Pasture feed on offer and growth rate maps 2018

Boosting winter pasture growth with nitrogen fertiliser