Australia's cattle and sheep industry

The Australian cattle and sheep industry injects more than $16.95 billion into the nation's economy each year and employs more than 200,000 people.

Australia is among the world's largest and most efficient producers of commercial livestock and a major exporter of red meat and livestock.

Livestock inventory

The national sheep flock (approximately 72.6 million head) is down on the historical highs of 1960 when it reached 170 million (ABS - Agricultural Commodities, 2013-14). 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 from the 1970s high of 30 million head to 26.3 million head (ABS - Agricultural Commodities, 2013-14). Dairy cattle contribute an additional 2.8 million head to the cattle herd, and the national goat flock is estimated to stand between 4-6 million head.

Feedlots and exports

The beef cattle feedlot industry is a well established value-adding component of the Australian beef industry. The growth within this sector has been stimulated by the increasing demand in export and domestic markets for consistent quality in our beef products.

Australia is one of the world’s leading exporters of commercial livestock, in terms of volume and animal welfare standards. The livestock 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.


The Australia red meat processing sector produces beef, lamb, sheepmeat and goatmeat for domestic consumption and export along with non-red meat products such as leather, toiletries (soap, cosmetics, deodorants, etc), candles, plastics, oils and more.  It supports the red meat industry by processing meat to satisfy the requirements of domestic and export markets and supporting the livelihoods of Australian families and communities.

Meat & Livestock Australia and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) invest levies paid by Australian red meat producers and processors into supporting and fostering industry participation in R&D to maximise the benefits to the red meat industry.

Domestic consumption

In 2013-14 Australians spent more than $1.9 billion on lamb and mutton and $6.3 billion on beef (MLA estimate).

Useful facts

  • Australia’s red meat industry is a sustainable and valued industry that provides jobs, nutrition and major economic benefits to Australians.
  • Australia is a world leader in producing commercial livestock for domestic and export markets, feeding Australia and the world.

More information

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