scorecardAustralia has so many sheep that some farmers are culling their flocks or giving them away
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Australia has so many sheep that some farmers are culling their flocks or giving them away

Polly Thompson   

Australia has so many sheep that some farmers are culling their flocks or giving them away
PolicyPolicy1 min read
  • The Australian sheep industry is facing a crisis as farmers cull and give away sheep for nothing.
  • Record rainfall has seen the sheep population boom, but sent mutton prices tumbling.

Australian farmers have more sheep than they can cope with and are culling livestock or giving them away for nothing, CNBC reported.

Three years ago the number of sheep was at an 100-year low. However, heavy rains have meant plenty of grass and the number of sheep has jumped to about 78 million – the highest since 2007, per Meat and Livestock Australia.

The population boom has caused problems for farmers. Over the past year, the oversupply has pushed mutton prices down by 75% to their lowest level in 16 years, according to Bloomberg.

With some slaughterhouses at full capacity, farmers are now culling or even giving away sheep for nothing to try to reduce the cost of rearing their flocks.

Steve McGuire, vice-president of WAFarmers, an agricultural advocacy group, told CNBC that farmers have suffered a "massive fall in profitability. Many sheep may not have a market, which could lead to farmers destroying animals."

The sheep population is expected to plateau in 2024, per Meat and Livestock Australia, which is expected to reduce pressure on farmers as the slaughterhouse backlog eases.

However, the threat of drought as summer arrives presents another challenge for the industry. With an El Niño weather pattern approaching, drought could limit grain production and once again leave farmers with more sheep than they can feed, The Guardian reported.

Australia is one of the world's leading exporters of lamb and the current crisis has pushed global wholesale meat prices down.

The US is Australia's largest market by value for lamb. However, sheep ranchers from 15 states have recently moved to limit imports, arguing that Australian lamb has "decimated the United States commercial sheep industry."




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