Importance of Livestock to South Australia
In 2013-14, the South Australian sheep, beef cattle and goat industries had a farm gate value of $1.298 billion. This was 21.4 percent of the total value of South Australia’s agricultural production.
About 6800 South Australian sheep, lamb and wool producers farmed 11 million sheep in 2013-14, which is about 14pc of the national flock. In that time, 3.611m lambs and 1.557m adult sheep were processed, producing nearly 85,000 tonnes of lamb (carcaseweight) and nearly 41,000t cwt of lamb. This production had a farm gate value of $491.1m.
South Australia’s wool clip in 2014 was 52 million kilograms. The average wool cut was 4.73kg per head and resulted in a farm gate value of $380m. At 52mkg, South Australia produces just more than 15pc of the nation’s clip.
The sheep industry continues to undergo significant restructuring. In the past 15 years, the wool industry has been characterised by low wool prices, declining sheep numbers and increasing lamb returns. The fall in sheep numbers has been driven by declining demand for wool due to competition from alternative fibres and fashion and consumer preference changes. Rather than buying higher priced quality woollen goods, many consumers prefer cheaper synthetic goods that can be replaced quickly as fashions change. As a result, the wool industry has experienced significant structural adjustment, including a shift from wool and mutton production toward lamb production.
Growing demand for Australian lamb from the United States, Europe and Asia has seen the proportion of lamb production exported increase substantially in recent years. In the past year, there has even been lamb exported to New Zealand where the conversion of many sheep properties to dairy farms has caused the NZ sheep population to drop from 70.3m in 1982 to 29.8m last year.
While Merinos are the predominant sheep breed in South Australia, there have been significant changes in the industry with a growing number of crossbreds, composite and exotic breeds being farmed.
Sheep are grazed in most parts of the State, though over time due to wild dog problems, there has been a significant reduction in numbers in the pastoral areas in the north of the state. In some areas of Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula and the Mid North, sheep numbers have reduced as farming systems on some properties have changed from mixed farming to continuous cropping.
There are about 5000 beef producers in South Australia running about 1.1 million head of beef cattle. Of these, about 1350 are specialist beef cattle farms, 700 are mixed sheep-beef cattle properties and the balance are mixed farms where cropping is a significant enterprise. The South Australian beef herd is nearly 4 percent of the national herd. In 2013-14, about 190,100 cows and heifers, 235,900 bulls, bullocks and steers and 3500 calves were processed. This was a total of 429,600 head worth $403.11m at farm gate.
Australia is considered to be a very efficient producer of beef. Though it only produces 3.9pc of the world’s beef, 60pc is exported, making it one of the three biggest exporters alongside the United States and Brazil. In South Australia, the South East has the largest beef cattle population with more than 659,000 head, followed by the pastoral areas with about 236,000 and the SA Murray-Darling Basin region with 161,500.
In South Australia, the industry contains cow-calf operations, backgrounding operations, grass finishing and feedlot facilities. In higher rainfall areas, some operators specialise in producing weaners for sale before they reach one-year-old. Others grow out calves and sell at 18-months of age to sell for slaughter while others background cattle for feedlots. In the pastoral areas, cow-calf operations predominate with many producers finishing steers and surplus heifers in bountiful years or selling them on to finishers when feed is less abundant.
In 2013-14, there were about 6300 farmed goats in South Australia – about 1 percent of the nation’s total. SA is home to a large number of feral goats, mainly in the pastoral areas. Feral goats are often trapped near water and sent to abattoirs for processing or may be exported live to overseas markets. The farm gate value of the goat meat industry in 2013-14 was $24 million, including $21.87m as exported goats meat and $2.12m as live exports. SA exports about 15pc of all goat meat exports and 32pc of all live goat exports.
The United States is the largest market (61pc) for goat meat exports followed by Taiwan (14pc) and the Caribbean (9pc). Each year about 2m goats are processed in Australia. Malaysia takes 92pc of live goat exports followed by Singapore (3pc) and Brunei (2pc).
Goats arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788 and spread with settlers throughout the country. The original goats were a varied and hardy herd capable of using harsh Australian pastures to produce milk and meat. Some of the first herd escaped and have evolved into the unique Australian rangeland goat. From humble beginnings, the Australian goat industry is continuing to grow and evolve to meet increasing global demand for goat meat, dairy products and fibre.
The dairy goat breeds in Australia are Anglo Nubian, British Alpine, Saanen, the Australian Brown, the Australian Melaan and Toggenburg. Specialist meat goat breeds include Boer and Kalahari Reds and fibre breeds are Angora for mohair and Cashmere for fine fibre.
Most of the managed goats are located in the Mount Lofty Ranges and Murraylands regions with about 190 South Australian farms keeping goats for meat, milk or fibre. Goat meat (chevon from adults and cabrito from young kids) are increasing in popularity with diversity in population. Goat’s milk is consumed as milk or made into cheese or yoghurt and mohair and cashmere end up in quality fashion goods.
Read more about MLA's goat industry snapshot
Animal health and disease management
Play it safe and don’t wait! Any unusual symptoms in any animals should be reported immediately. The earlier a disease is detected the sooner any outbreak can be contained or controlled, and our livestock industries protected.
Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline - 1800 675 888
Reporting notifiable, serious or unusual animal diseases
Any serious or unusual symptoms, or behavior, seen in your livestock or birds should be reported to one of the following:
- the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888
- your private veterinarian
- the nearest animal health adviser or government veterinarian officer.
Even if unsure, please report any suspicion of disease immediately.
Symptoms suggestive of a notifiable, serious or unusual disease
In general terms, the following signs in livestock or birds are indicative of a notifiable, serious or unusual disease and must be reported:
- a large number of ill or dead animals
- rapid spread of disease through a herd or flock
- animals that are lame, drooling or salivating excessively
- animals that have ulcers, erosions or blisters around the feet, muzzle, udder or teats and/or in the mouth
- unusual nervous signs
- any kind of discharge e.g. diarrhoea especially if it has blood in it or excessive nasal discharge
- birds with dullness, swollen heads or respiratory distress
- production drop – milk yield in livestock or egg production in birds (or an increase in percentage of thin-shelled eggs)
- the sudden onset and rapid deterioration of illness or death in horses
- any associated interstate or overseas human/animal movement
- any unusual or unfamiliar disease symptoms in animals or birds
Less dramatic signs should also be watched for, such as animals not eating properly and animals that are depressed and not responding the way they should.
Information to provide when reporting a suspected notifiable, serious or unusual animal disease
Upon contacting the vet or Animal Health Adviser, it is necessary to provide some basic information that will assist in determining the most appropriate course of action - this should include:
- what pest or disease is suspected (if known)
- (if not you) the name of the owner and/or farm manager
- full property details including street address, telephone number, and Property Identification Code (PIC)
- the livestock species (e.g. sheep, cattle etc) and the approximate numbers of animals on the property (including wild animals)
- the type of animals that are affected (e.g. cattle only or a specific age group)
- a brief description of clinical signs and any lesions observed
- the date when you first noticed the signs
- an approximate number of sick or dead animals
- whether any susceptible animals have recently left or been brought onto the property
- any recent history of overseas human movement.
For more details, go to the Biosecurity SA website http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/biosecuritysa.