The release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics sheep slaughter data for the March 2022 quarter provides an opportunity to measure the strength of the flock rebuild underway currently. The sheep turnoff ratio (STR) is a useful signal to show if the national flock is in rebuild or liquidation phase. Historically, when the STR is above 14% we aren’t holding onto enough sheep in order to allow a rebuild and the flock goes into decline. Similarly, once we are below 14% for the STR then the flock has the capacity to rebuild.
In 2021 the STR averaged 9.1%, which is the lowest it has been on an annual basis in over three decades, and during 2021 the flock grew by 10.8%. Presently, for the first quarter of 2022, the STR remains at an average of 9.1%. Currently, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) are forecasting an increase to the flock of 4.9% this season. However, recent correlation between the annual STR and the change to the flock highlights that an STR as low as 9% is more consistent with a rebuild of 7%-8%, according to the line of best fit on the scatter plot below. An increase to the flock of 8% this year would see it grow to 76.5 million head, compared to the 74.3 million head that MLA are anticipating.