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Assessing the economic cost of endemic disease on the profitability of Australian beef cattle and sheep producers

The study involved three stages: 

  • An expert workshop to identify the diseases of major economic importance, work that had been done and factors to be considered in generating new cost estimates; the workshop identified and prioritised diseases for sheep, northern beef herds, southern beef herds and cattle feedlots. 
  • A review of the literature to identify previous work undertaken and whether or not that work was still applicable or needed to be updated; this was done for each of the major diseases identified at the workshop. 
  • Modelling the major diseases and their economic impact at the farm level and then aggregating the results to regional and national levels based on the distribution of the disease; livestock numbers and distribution were based on the most recent available data which was the 2001 Agricultural Census of the Australian Bureau of Statistics

Economic impacts were restricted to productivity effects, so did not include the cost of regulation, zoonoses or trade restrictions. Separate models were used for sheep flocks (Merino and prime lamb), beef herds and feedlots. Where appropriate, model assumptions were adjusted to reflect different production zones such as northern and southern beef production systems, and high rainfall, cereal and pastoral zones for sheep. Estimates of cost were undertaken for each of the major production systems where the disease occurred (eg Merino and prime lamb high rainfall flocks). These were based on representative enterprises with average income and costs based on actual farm data. Ten-year average (1995-2005) prices and costs were used for the modelling to minimise the impact of shorter term fluctuations, particularly of price. This may mean that some estimates of disease costs do not reflect the current situation due to recent price changes such as the current above-average beef and sheep prices and below-average fine wool prices. 

The components (increased cost, decreased income) of the cost of each disease were identified. Not all the major diseases could be modelled, because of inadequate data on prevalence, incidence or production effects, so the results need to be interpreted accordingly. Estimates for the cost of bovine pestivirus could not be undertaken for these reasons. Annual ryegrass toxicity was not modelled because new estimates would not have provided any additional information to that which currently exists (Allen 2002) and which estimated a cost of $25.8m in WA in 2002.


Title Size Date published
631.5KB 25/07/2007


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Assessing the economic cost of endemic disease on the profitability of Australian beef cattle and sheep producers
23/05/2005 13/07/2006

This page was last updated on 31/07/2018