Australian Rangeland Society

Don Burnside, ARS Finance and Audit Officer.  Email: don.burnside@iinet.net.au

While browsing on the internet, I discovered that the Meat & Livestock Corporation (MLA) regularly produce a very useful source of information about the number of livestock, presented at the Regional NRM scale.  The most recent data for sheep and cattle numbers at June 2015 and June 2016 are shown in the tables below and are presented here for the interest of ARS members.

Sheep numbers

Although it is little value considering just two years, the decline in numbers between 2015 and 2016 in all regions except Western NSW seems quite dramatic.  Presumably, the reduction in numbers in SA and Queensland reflects increasing challenges associated with running sheep in those areas, although ‘cluster fencing’ cells for predator control are being developed in Queensland.  Sheep numbers are holding their own in western NSW, and there are increasing numbers of non-merino breeds.  In WA, sheep are now confined to a few large flocks on the Nullarbor Plain, and some properties in the West Gascoyne.

 

NRM Region

Number of sheep

30 June 2015*

30 June 2016**

Rangelands WA

211,089

181,423

SA Arid Lands

1,138,963

934,384

Western NSW (incorporating Lower Murray Darling)

2,563,792

2,475,058

South West Queensland

669,055

436,098

Desert Channels

661,473

485,203

Southern Gulf

7,546

38

Northern Gulf

5,212

162

Total for these regions

5,257,130

4,512,366

* Source:  MLA (2016a) – https://www.mla.com.au/globalassets/mla-corporate/prices–markets/documents/trends–analysis/fast-facts–maps/sheep-map/sheep-numbers-map-2015-16.pdf

** Source:  MLA (2017a) – https://www.mla.com.au/globalassets/mla-corporate/prices–markets/documents/trends–analysis/fast-facts–maps/sheep-map/sheep-numbers-map-2016-17.pdf

Cattle numbers

Cattle are by far the dominant livestock now grazed in the rangelands.  Queensland dominates, with 4.9 million cattle grazed in the state’s rangelands in 2016, followed by the Northern Territory with 2.1 million.  Cattle numbers have increased over recent years in WA, as they have replaced sheep in much of the southern rangelands.  Cattle are less important that sheep in SA and Western NSW, although in SA, animal type grazed is to a large extent demarcated by the Dog Proof Fence.

 

NRM Region

Number of cattle

30 June 2015*

30 June 2016**

Rangelands WA

1,282,568

1,110,570

SA Arid Lands

176,995

167,948

Western NSW (incorporating Lower Murray Darling)

132,959

168,975

South West Queensland

551,758

495,936

Desert Channels

1,402,449

1,111,362

Southern Gulf

1,190,908

1,068,859

Northern Gulf

780,927

883,925

Burdekin

1,140,127

1,300,370

Cape York

90,737

68,272

 Northern Territory

2,114,568

 2,238,375

Total for these regions

8,863,996

8,614,592

* Source:  MLA (2016b) – https://www.mla.com.au/globalassets/mla-corporate/prices–markets/documents/trends–analysis/fast-facts–maps/sheep-map/cattle-numbers-map-2015-16.pdf

** Source:  MLA (2017b) – https://www.mla.com.au/globalassets/mla-corporate/prices–markets/documents/trends–analysis/fast-facts–maps/sheep-map/ cattle-numbers-map-2016-17.pdf