Numbers worry SILC

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Creating a utopia for sheep production in WA is on the agenda of 13 recently appointed members of the Sheep Industry Leadership Council (SILC).

The Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) project was launched in March by Agriculture Minister Terry Redman to counteract the decline in the State's sheep numbers, presently estimated at 12.5 million.

SILC chairman Rob Egerton-Warburton said the council consisted of key sheep producers from low and high rainfall areas, specialists involved in meat types and clean skin sheep, processors, exporters, marketers and scientists.

At the first meeting, held last week, the chairman and his council agreed low sheep numbers put the industry at risk and a 10-year vision was needed to assure against commodity price and seasonal fluctuations.

"Currently we do not have enough ewe numbers to sustain the industry," Mr Egerton-Warburton said.

He said there would be sufficient DAFWA funds and staff available to target the necessary research to lift sheep numbers across all the State's agricultural zones.

"There is no set budget, but funding will be assessed on the worthiness of each individual project," Mr Egerton-Warburton said.

Of urgency, he said, would be the next October meeting which would outline the optimum sheep numbers required in WA to sustain current processors and exporters while maintaining necessary flock replacements.

"The committee will examine the risks posed by the whole supply chain, in particular processors and exporters," Mr Egerton-Warburton said.

"We will work towards sustainable and optimum flocks in the shortest fastest timeframe for the benefit of each component of the supply chain."

Also discussed at the first meeting was the ambition to increase consumer awareness of how clean and green WA's sheep by-products are.

"We aim to ensure that animal health and welfare standards are met," Mr Egerton-Warburton said.

He said the council would be consulting grower groups, industry bodies and the Government in the process of its strategic industry inclusive approach to the WA sheep industry.

"Submissions may be made to any of the committee members," Mr Egerton-Warburton said.

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