Australia's sheepmeat industry

Australia is one of the world's leading producers of lamb and mutton, the largest exporter of mutton and live sheep, and second largest exporter of lamb. The Australian public are among the biggest consumers of lamb in the world. The off-farm meat value of the Australian sheepmeat industry is $3.9 billion.

Fast facts

National flock

  • The Australian national sheep flock is 74.7 million head (*).
  • 43,760 properties with sheep and lambs (*).
  • 44.9 million breeding ewes one-year and older (*).
  • Major prime lamb production areas include the NSW Riverina and wheat-sheep zone, Murray region and high rainfall areas in south-west Victoria and eastern SA.
  • Major sheep producing areas include south-west WA, south-west Victoria and southern NSW.
  • The sheepmeat industry accounts for 32% of all farms with agricultural activity (*).  


  • 456,997 tonnes of lamb and 183,157 tonnes of mutton were produced in 2012-13 (**).
  • The gross value of Australian sheep, lamb and live sheep production is around $2.3 billion (ABARES 2012-13).
  • Lambs and sheep contributed 5% of the total farm value of $47.3 billion in 2012-13.
  • Australia produces approximately 6% of the world's lamb and mutton supply.


  • Domestic expenditure is estimated at $2.0 billion for lamb and $41.4 million for mutton (2012-13).
  • Australians ate 9.7kg of lamb and 0.3kg of mutton per person in 2012-13.
  • Around 78% of Australian fresh meat buyers purchased lamb in 2012-13 (AC Nielsen Homescan).


  • In 2012-13, Australia exported 51% of all lamb and 96% of all mutton produced (**)(***).
  • The value of total lamb exports in 2012-13 was $1.1 billion and mutton exports $511 million (**).
  • Australian live sheep exports were valued at $201 million in 2012-13 (**).
  • The lamb and sheep industry (including live sheep) contributed around 5% to the value of total Australian farm exports in 2012-13.
  • The Middle East is the biggest Australian market for lamb exports (29%) and mutton exports (34%) (***).

Read the sheepmeat industry fast facts

Prime lamb situation analysis

The prime lamb industry has been a strong performer among broadacre agricultural enterprises in recent years.

Read the full prime lamb situation analysis report

Sheep numbers by natural resource management region

 View the sheep distribution map

All figures based on MLA/ABS/ABARES 2012-13 unless otherwise stated.
* - ABS Agricultural commodities - figures for 30 June 2012
** - latest available ABS data - figures for fiscal year 2012-13
*** - latest available DAFF data - figures for fiscal year 2012-13
Per capita consumption figures based on an MLA estimate 2013


© 2014 Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364