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Value analysis of the Australian live sheep trade (2019)

Did you know that 44-49% of revenue earned in Australia from live sheep exports is retained by producers?

Project start date: 01 October 2019
Project end date: 30 June 2020
Publication date: 21 September 2020
Livestock species: Sheep
Relevant regions: National
Download Report (3.7 MB)


An economic analysis of the value of the live export sheep sector was conducted to produce useful knowledge and materials to assist industry to openly demonstrate the economic benefits of the trade.

This project used desktop analysis and surveys to gather factual information about the live sheep export industry’s contribution to the Australian economy and identify the level of reliance on the trade for sheep producers and other participants across the supply chain.

The results of the review show that producers retain almost half the value generated by the industry, which was worth $220 million per year on average between 2014 and 2018, and employs approximately 3,443 people nationally.


The aim of this report was to identify and outline the economic benefit that flows from the live sheep export trade to businesses and individuals along the supply chain in Australia.

Key findings

  • More than 82% of live sheep exported from Australia during 2014 - 2018 departed from the port of Fremantle, Western Australia. Adelaide was the other major port, accounting for 15% of exports.
  • Per state, the live export trade accounts for annual sheep and lamb turnoff at a rate of:
    • 30% in Western Australia
    • 5% in South Australia
    • 0.3% in Victoria
    • 0.01% across New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania.
  • As well as providing another market to sell their sheep, Western Australian producers use access to the live export trade to reduce their sheep numbers in times of drought, allowing them to better manage feed availability.

Benefits to industry

Conducting this analysis of the value of the Australian live sheep export trade to participants in the supply chain and regional communities has provided factual information that can be used to support discussion and ensure a balanced and informed debate regarding the industry.

Future research

This is the first report in a series of three, carried out under this project. Industry may look to undertake future research to continue to ensure the WA sheep industry has access to diversified markets.

Phase 2 is an economic analysis of the industry’s self-imposed three-month moratorium and the regulatory changes introduced in 2019.

Phase 3 is an analysis of a range of farm level decision-making options influencing national sheep flock numbers, with a primary focus on Western Australia.

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: Mecardo