WA producers cautious

Rebecca TurnerCountryman
The West logo

Next year, 45 per cent of WA producers intend to increase the size of their ewe flock, according to Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) October 2010 lamb survey.

Eight per cent intend to decrease ewe numbers, while the remaining 47 per cent said they will maintain their flock size.

The survey, conducted in collaboration with Australian Wool Innovation, surveyed 1907 producers from across six states, including 903 pure Merino producers and 1004 producers running mixed enterprises or other breeds.

MLA reported that WA was the key exception to the trend of increasing or maintaining ewe flock numbers, reflecting the continued poor seasonal conditions affecting the State.

Of the 247 WA respondents, 29 per cent intend to decrease the size of their ewe flock in 2011, 18 per cent said they would increase their ewe flock numbers and 51 per cent will maintain their ewe flock size.

The survey also asked producers to rate the current seasonal conditions in their area. A total of 44 per cent of WA participants reported they were in drought and a further 45 per cent said their current seasonal conditions were below average.

In WA, 90 per cent of those surveyed said the seasonal conditions were worse than last year, compared to the national average where 75 percent thought the seasonal conditions were better than last year.

National figures from the survey showed that 51 per cent of total breeding ewes were straight-bred Merino, followed by 18 per cent being first-cross ewes, principally Merino-cross-Border Leicester.

In WA, 63 per cent of the breeding ewe population was pure Merinos, which was the second highest recording of a Merino-based flock, topped only by Queensland, which had a 74 per cent pure Merino ewe population.

The survey also indicated WA’s flock was made up of 2 per cent Samm, 2 per cent Dorper and 2 per cent Damara ewes, with 7 per cent being first-cross ewes.

Marking rates in WA for pure Merino ewes were slightly below the national average of 86 per cent at 84 per cent for pure Merino lambs marked July to October this year.

Of the ewes joined to non-pure Merino lambs, WA had a 100 per cent marking rate, again slightly below the national average for this category, which was 108 per cent.

Out of the total number of producers surveyed, it was expected 14.8 million lambs were to be sold in the four months from November to February with second-cross lambs making up 33 per cent of the total. The majority of these lambs were born to first-cross ewes and Poll Dorset or White Suffolk rams out of New South Wales and Victoria.

Producers participated in the survey through a mail out and online, the first of which focused on the composition of the breeding flock and lambs on hand. The online component was an extended version of the survey, including qualitative questions regarding seasonal conditions and flock intentions in 2011.

The survey is part of an updated set of MLA producer surveys that are intended to gauge short-term trends and movements in the national sheep flock.

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