Western Australian sheep producer surveys

Page last updated: Thursday, 21 September 2023 - 1:22pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Comprehensive survey data is collected on Western Australian sheep enterprises and producer intentions every 4 years by DPIRD and was most recently collected in June 2022. The survey topics include demographics such as flock size, mating type and stocking rates.

Detailed questions are asked on reproduction, marking, stud selection, knowledge and practices around sheep management.

Thank you to all contributing sheep producers for completing the survey, your insights help inform future research and development in the sheep meat and wool industry in Western Australia.

Executive summary - 2022 results

The full 2022 report can be found in the links on the sidebar, along with copies of previous survey reports. 

The 2022 Western Australian Sheep Producer Survey was conducted online and by telephone with producers who had more than 500 sheep and were located in the Medium Rainfall Zone (MRZ) or Cereal Sheep Zone (CSZ).

The survey is conducted to gather information on sheep enterprises and producer practices. It has now been conducted four times, in 2011, 2014, 2018 and 2022 with large random samples of sheep producers in the Medium Rainfall Zone (MRZ) and Cereal Sheep Zone (CSZ). The sample sizes for the 2011, 2014, 2018 and 2022 surveys were 369, 368, 389 and 448 respectively.

Some questions were included in all four surveys, providing a chance to examine trends over time. Many of the results have remained stable over time giving some confidence that significant changes in survey responses are reflecting trends in the broader population of WA sheep producers. Below are key findings from the surveys.   

Findings that have remained stable over time:

  • The proportion of respondents who have wool enterprises, prime lamb or dual enterprises (both wool and prime lamb) has not changed significantly between 2011 and 2022, despite a reduction in average flock size. The proportion of all sheep in the survey in these different enterprises has also been consistent.
  • In relation to ram breeding, the majority (80%) of respondents continue to ‘run a commercial flock and buy rams’ and around a quarter ‘breed rams for their own commercial flock’ as opposed to ‘breed rams for sale’ or ‘trade sheep only’ (more than one response was allowed).
  • Management of nutrition based on pregnancy scanning status between 2011 and 2022 was at the same level although there were significant changes in the interim.
  • The proportion of lambs turned off to slaughter and live export in 2018 and 2022 were very similar, 70% and 30% respectively in 2018 and 79% and 21% in 2022.
  • The most popular method for selling lambs has been through an agent (40% in 2018 and around half in 2022) as opposed to: direct to an abattoir, processor or exporter; through a saleyard; online auction; or direct to other producers or feedlotters. The least popular method has consistently been through online auction.

Trends over time:

  • The average flock size of respondents has consistently decreased, in both the MRZ and CSZ, from 2011 to 2022 (4,720 to 4,032).
  • There was a significant decrease in the average flock size of prime lamb producers from 2018 to 2022 (4,048 to 2,190).
  • Significant increase in the proportion of respondents who were prime lamb producers from 2018 to 2022 which was driven by the CSZ (7% to 13%).
  • Increasingly, producers select rams based on ‘look, data and some genetics’ or ‘primarily on genetics’ (41% in 2011 to 54% in 2022) as opposed to just visual traits.
  • Significant increase in use of some labour-saving devices: electronic identification; sheep handler; remote water tank sensor and pump controller; and an individual data management system.
  • Significant increase over time in ‘considering using’ walk over weighing, automatic jetting machine, sheep handler and remote water tank sensor and pump controller.
  • The practice of scanning for litter size continued to increase, to 27% of respondents in the 2022 survey, in both zones, with a corresponding increase in the proportion of the ewe flock that was scanned for litter size from 2018 to 2022 (29% to 36%).
  • Significant increase in monitoring of ewe condition using a ‘visual assessment and occasionally condition scoring’ from 24% in 2011 to 39% in 2022.
  • The rate of Merino mulesing has increased, with 82% of producers mulesing in the 2022 survey and 84% of all Merino lambs being mulesed.
  • The use of pain relief in mulesing of Merino lambs has increased significantly from just over half in 2011 to 90% in 2022.
  • Increase in average marking rates of Merino lambs and meat and maternal lambs between 2011 and 2022, up to 96% for Merinos and 100% for cross bred lambs.
  • In the 2022 survey, the overall peak lambing time was April to June. In the MRZ, peak timing was May and June and in the CSZ there was a dip in May for cross-bred lambs with a peak of second lambing in May. The peak for second lambing was in June for Merinos and July for meat lambs.

Larger producers:

  • More likely to scan for litter size.
  • More likely to have a good or detailed understanding of Australian Sheep Breeding Values and less likely to have never heard of them.
  • Largest quartile based on flock size had higher stocking rates than any other quartile (not in MRZ).
  • Largest quartile ran 56% of the sheep owned by respondents (66% in the MRZ).
  • Larger Merino producers were more likely to mules (86 to 88% of larger producers).

Differences between zones in the 2022 survey:

  • Stocking rates (calculated based on the total number of sheep for all respondents) were significantly higher in the MRZ than the CSZ (2.98 and 0.81 sheep/ha respectively).
  • The average flock size was larger in the MRZ than the CSZ (4,493 ha and 3,663 ha respectively).
  • The average grazing area was larger in the CSZ (1,550 ha compared to 778 ha in the MRZ).


  • New questions were added to the 2022 survey on feed gaps, pasture improvement, marginal land and producers’ management strategies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The primary feed gap was in late autumn – early winter (72% of respondents) for all enterprise types (wool, lamb and dual enterprises).
  • Half of the respondents had sown new pastures in 2021 with the majority sowing a mix (primarily a ryegrass mix).
  • The majority of respondents considered a portion of their land to be marginal, on average 17% of their farm with a large range of management strategies reported.
  • The main practices used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were: pasture renovation and protection of native bush, waterways and wetlands.

Contact information

Katherine Davies
+61 (0)8 9690 2169