Research Report

Value analysis of the Australian live sheep export trade

Brief summary

An economic analysis of the value of the live export sheep sector would produce useful knowledge and materials in assisting industry to openly demonstrate the economic benefits of the trade, ensuring stakeholders are equipped to discuss and communicate the benefit of the trade.

This project used desktop analysis and surveys to provide 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 keep almost half the value of the industry, which was worth $220 million a 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.

Further research and recommendations

This report is the first in a series of three to be carried out under this project.

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.

Value analysis of the Australian live sheep export trade
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