Final Australian livestock numbers, as released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, reported lower cattle and sheep numbers for the year ending June 30, 2010. Ongoing drought throughout 2009 contributed to the decline with the cattle herd back 5 percent year-on-year, to 26.55 million head, while the sheep flock also shrunk 5 percent, to 68.1 million head.

The sheep flock continued its decline for the year with numbers at their lowest levels since 1905. Sheep numbers fell uniformly across most states, with 5 percent less sheep in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania than a year earlier. Flocks also dropped in Queensland (15 percent), South Australia (10 percent) and Western Australia (7 percent).

Reflecting the strong prices and outlook for lambs in recent years, the number of breeding ewes bucked the declining trend, rising 3 percent on the previous year, to 42.3 million head. With the breaking of the drought across eastern Australia in 2010 and the wet start to 2011, and with producers retaining breeding ewes, the national flock is expected to increase for the year ending June 30, 2011.

Reprinted in part from Meat and Livestock Australia