The number of sheep trucked across the Nullarbor this year are expected to remain conservative after flows from Western Australia to the eastern states eased in 2023.
A total of 232,732 of WA sheep and lambs were trucked east in 2023, almost 37 per cent down from 2022, when 368,150 head made the trip and below the annual average of 440,000 head.
After low volumes in October and November at 17,000 and 19,000 head respectively, December saw the numbers pick up with 35,000 head sent east.
Episode 3 market analyst Matt Dalgleish said around once a decade there were more significant flows of sheep from west to east, usually when there was a more significant price differential and demand in the east in terms of the flock rebuild.
"That's when you get those numbers heading up to a million or more head," he said.
"I don't think we're going to get those numbers this year, it's more likely to be a normal season.
"Particularly now that we've got the Saudi Arabians back in the market for live sheep, so that's going to mean there's good demand out of the west for getting on the live boats so that would mean they don't necessarily need to use the east as a method of disposal of animals as well."
Mr Dalgleish said uncertainty around the Red Sea tensions could also be a factor affecting live export opportunities this year.
"If that situation doesn't get resolved and the live trade has to make an alternative pathway around Africa, that's not going be a great scenario to encourage the live trade to have good volumes going," he said.
"If that problem is extended... that might be enough to disrupt the live trade significantly from Australia and if that is the case, if it's prolonged it could lead to the West Australians having to find alternative avenues.
"I suspect the Red Sea issue will get resolved more quickly, it's not just disruptive for the live sheep trade, it's disruptive for a lot of trades.
"I don't think the larger global powers will want to see that situation to continue to be a problem for trade."
Transfers from Western Australia to eastern states hit a high in 2020 at 1.9 million head off the back of the 2019 drought and the subsequent demand to rebuild.
The heavy lamb, trade lamb and mutton indicators are all up on week-ago pricing, with heavy lamb at 735c, trade lamb at 722c and mutton at 299c.
Merino lamb eased 32c to 552c, light lamb is back 24c to 631c and restocker lamb is down by 9c to 613c.