Walking the line

Livestock | 20th May 2024 | By Matt Dalgleish

Market Morsel

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) sheep slaughter numbers, along with live sheep export volumes, for the first quarter of 2024 show that the Australian sheep flock is teetering on the brink of moving into a liquidation phase.  The Sheep Turnoff Ratio (STR), which measures the proportion of the flock being turned off each quarter, has increased from 13.2% as at then end of 2023 to 13.7% as at the end of Q1, 2024.

Historically, the threshold STR between flock liquidation and flock rebuild has been 14%, so presently we are just a fraction away from being pushed into liquidation phase. Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) are forecasting a slim growth to the flock in 2024 of just 0.6%, which is right in line with the scatter plot between the annual average STR measure and the annual flock change, reinforcing that we are at a tipping point in the sheep flock cycle.

As an interesting side point, analysis of the STR for Western Australia versus the change to the WA flock (bearing in mind that WA flock numbers are only updated to 2022) shows that there has been a significant lift in the WA STR in recent years. Indeed, it currently sits at 10.8% for 2024, which is the highest on record.

Analysis of the annual WA flock change and annual average WA STR from 2000 highlights that historically an STR of around 5% is the tipping point between flock rebuild and liquidation in the west. An STR dipping just under 4% in the early 2000s saw the WA flock growing up until the end of 2005. Conversely an STR above 5% from 2006 to 2010 (peaking at 7.3% in 2008) saw several years of strong WA flock declines, with some seasons seeing the flock down by 10%-15% in a single year.

Since 2014 the WA STR has ranged between 6.5% to 7.5% and the flock has mostly been in a steady decline, averaging annual falls of around 2.5% per year from 2014 to 2022. However in 2023 the WA STR increased to 9.8% and then to 10.8% so far in 2024. This signals some sharp drops in the WA flock are likely once the official numbers are calculated from the ABS.


  • Sheep
  • Lamb
  • Slaughter
  • Flock Liquidation
  • Flock Rebuild