Exit of sheep from WA continues

Over two million sheep to have crossed the Nullarbor by the end of 2020

Sheepmeat
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Lack of water in WA sending more sheep over the Nullarbor.

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Forty B-Double trucks a day are heading across the Nullarbor as the exit of ewes from the west continues.

It is estimated by the end of 2020, two million Western Australian breeding ewes will have left the state.

According to Russell McKay of Elders Katanning, in the heart of WA sheep and wool industry, the reason is simple- water - or lack of it.

"I have never before sold five and six-year-old breeding ewes out of the state," Mr McKay said.

"Just recently I must have sent five B-doubles of six-year-old ewes to SA for breeding.

"I have never seen that before, normally they are going into the meat works, but they have been paying us well above meat odds for on-farm.

"For old ewes into SA the prices that are being paid is $140 or more, on-farm."

The sheep population of WA currently stands at about six million head down form about 10 million in 1990.

That big comeback in numbers is not only off the back of WA producers reaping the benefits of the eastern states who have a insatiable demand for sheep, but farming dynamics are also changing.

"We are more or less looking at 40 per cent less farmers in WA," Mr McKay said.

"And farms are changing directions - more cropping, changing the way we run sheep, it's a big comeback in breeding numbers."

Yet as the sheep leave the state bound for the abundant feed in the east, financially, Mr McKay said farmers are in a solid financial position.

But he admitted the scenario could have been very different if the drought hadn't broken across most of the eastern seaboard earlier in the year.

"If there wasn't the option to send them east, it would cause a glut in the market and they would be under severe financial pressure," Mr McKay said.

"The abattoirs wouldn't have been able to handle the amount of sheep that have gone east.

"There has been a huge number of Merino lambs and crossbred store lambs go over east to the feeder market as well so that is going to cause our abattoirs some pretty serious grief by the time February and March come along."

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