Alternatives for sheep planned for the live export market during the Northern summer

Page last updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2022 - 12:35pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development reminds producers that from June to 23 September inclusive, there is a pause in the live export of sheep to the Middle East.

Early decisions on the turnoff of sheep normally sold to this market is key.


Producers have options available to manage those animals that would originally be sold as ‘shippers’ in June through to September.

Some of these options include:

  • Prepare and sell suitable animals prior to the end of May and talk to your agent about upcoming contracts
  • Retain and sell to the live export market in October– 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 wether hoggets if needed during the pause for slaughter as mutton
  • Sell lighter lambs to the air freight market
  • Sell 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 should consider the following:

  • stocking rate for breeding ewes and available pasture for lambing ewes over the winter period
  • stocking rate over autumn and early winter and available feed for growing weaners
  • impact on cash flow with selling now rather than later and from wool returns.

Feed requirements for wether hoggets

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

Table 1 Feed requirements for an dry adult sheep to maintain condition (based on average inputs and energy requirements of a 50kg sheep)

Feed on Offer or FOO (kgDM/ha)

Amount of supplementary feed with 11MJ/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% protein.

Table 2 Feed requirements to grow a 45kg wether to 50kg liveweight (based on average inputs and energy requirements)

FOO (kgDM/ha)

Amount of supplementary feed with 11MJ/kg (kg/hd/d)

Cost $400/tonne*

Cost to gain 5kg
in 5 weeks

In confinement
















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

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