Australia is among the world's largest and most successful and efficient producers of commercial livestock and a leader in the export of red meat and livestock. The total value of Australia's off-farm beef and sheepmeat industry is A$16 billion (source: 2011 MLA estimate).
The national sheep flock, now at around 68.1 million head, is down on the historical highs of 1960 when it reached 170 million. This reflects a more competitive international fibre market, land use changes in the agricultural sector and, more recently, the ravages of drought.
Similarly, the beef cattle herd size is down to 26.6 million head from the 1970s high of 30 million (source: ABS - Agricultural Commodities, 2010). Dairy cattle contribute an additional 2.6 million head to the cattle herd, and the national goat flock stands at 3 million.
Australia is a world leader in the export of commercial livestock. The live trade is a significant contributor to the Australian rural economy and has provided an important market for Australian cattle, sheep and goat producers for more than 30 years.
Australians consume an average of 46.5kg of red meat each year. This is made up of 33.7kg of beef, 10.8kg of lamb and 2kg of mutton.
All figures based on MLA/DAFF/ABS/ABARE 2010-11 unless otherwise stated. Per capita consumption figures are from MLA cattle industry projections 2011.