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A Blueprint to enhance the growth of the Queensland sheep and goat industries

The sheep, wool and goat (SWAG) industries in Queensland currently have a rare opportunity for a major surge in both numbers and productivity.

Now is the time to invest in small livestock. A number of factors have come together to bring massive opportunities:

Exclusion fencing has given certainty, security and profitability back to the sheep and goat industries. Already more than 10,000,000 hectares have been fenced in Queensland, with another 5,000,000 hectares in the pipeline. Inside the fences, predation is down and reproduction rates are increasing – going from 50% to 85% in sheep and from 80% to over 125% in goats. This translates to an increase in gross margins of around 30 to 60% in wool and meat sheep, and 80% in goats.

Restocking is cheaper and cash flow return is quicker. With a return to improved seasons in 2021/2022, landholders are looking to restock. Diversifying into sheep and/or goats involves less of an initial outlay and a faster return to profitability.

Commodity prices are strong. Since 2007, prices for mutton, lamb and goat meat have increased by between two-and-a-half and four times and wool has continued to be valued highly.

Commodity prices 2016 to present

Between 2016 and now:

Key stakeholders have begun to recognise the value of small stock in Queensland production systems. Participants in the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative (QFPI) cluster fencing have indicated that they will increase sheep numbers by 700,000 head in coming years.

They note that the fencing doesn't just bring security, it also has biosecurity and environmental benefits, with increased disease protection and marked increases in native flora and fauna.

Exclusion fencing is giving our kids a future in the industry

Benn Wilson


Growing the sheep and goat industries brings with it the chance to re-invigorate our regions, bringing people and money back and, with them, infrastructure and stronger communities.

The opportunity exists to lift the value of sheep and goat production in Queensland from $170 million per annum to around $350 million in the next five years. With emerging technologies adding better understanding and new environmental markets opening up, now is the time to fully embrace that opportunity.

Below is a longitudinal illustration of Gross Margins per hectare comparing wool sheep, meat sheep, goats and cattle over the period 2007 to 2022 using actual data and 2022 to 2027 using ABARE forecast commodity price data.

The Gross Margins per hectare are based on a generic property scale of 10,000 hectares and approximately 6,000 Dry Sheep Equivalents (DSE) or around 1.6 hectares per DSE. More information on the Gross Margins per hectare can be found with the Enterprise Calculator at the bottom of this page.

Gross margin per hectare – historical and projected

Wool sheep

Meat sheep



This Blueprint lays out a plan for the re-development of the Queensland sheep and goat industries. It is a guide to producers, industry and other stakeholders to allow them to take full advantage of this rare opportunity.

Meat sheep

Overall sheep numbers in Queensland declined from the peak of 25,000,000 to around 1,800,000 by 2021.

The Queensland sheep industry has been through significant change over the last 50 years including:

  • The collapse of the reserve wool price scheme – twice
  • Significant and extended periods of drought
  • Fluctuating sheep meat prices
  • Predation by wild dogs.

These impacts combined with longer term shifts in relative labour productivity and access to skills when compared to the cattle industry have contributed to the decline in sheep numbers.

Exclusion fencing has changed landholders' attitudes towards running small stock. By grouping together into clusters, landholders have reduced the cost of external fencing, meaning that large parts of western Queensland are now behind fences. The result is higher lambing rates, greatly increased profitability and peace of mind.

Case study

Sophie Curtis



There's a movement for people to make a connection with their farmer

Sophie Curtis


Landholders have responded to these circumstances with innovative approaches, looking at new genetics and changes to pastures and sourcing new markets.

They've also begun actively sourcing new markets with a more direct relationship with consumers. These are opening up premium market segments that didn't exist before.

At the same time, sheep meat prices have risen substantially.

Meat sheep prices

Both mutton and lamb prices have risen steadily from 2007, although they have declined since September 2021

  • Lamb prices increased from 317¢/kg CW in 2007 to 710¢/kg CW now.
  • Mutton prices increased from 201¢/kg CW in 2007 to 508¢/kg CW now.

During the recent drought, many landholders destocked. Now that they've received substantial rainfall, their options for restocking are greater.

Having a diversity of stock provides the ability to take advantage of increased profitability in any one of them. Importantly, it also brings in income at different times of the year, helping cash flow.

Case study

Clare and David Paterson



With the exclusion fencing up, the idea was there to do something different

David Paterson


Restocking with sheep is less expensive than cattle and the financial returns come sooner. Many of the newer sheep breeds are more resilient and better adapted to drought, especially protein drought, bringing sustainability to an enterprise.

Sheep carcass weights by state

  • Queensland carcass weights have gone from 20.7 CW in 2010 to 22.83 CW now.
  • New South Wales carcass weights have gone from 22.45 CW in 2010 to 28.67 CW now.
  • South Australian carcass weights have gone from 25.16 CW in 2010 to 23.79 CW now.
  • Victorian carcass weights have gone from 22.18 CW in 2010 to 25.71 CW now.
  • Western Australian carcass weights have gone from 21 CW in 2010 to 25.21 CW now.

Lamb carcass weights by state

  • Queensland carcass weights have gone from 19.53 CW in 2010 to 22.6 CW now.
  • New South Wales carcass weights have gone from 20.47 CW in 2010 to 25.61 CW now.
  • South Australian carcass weights have gone from 22.77 CW in 2010 to 25.32 CW now.
  • Victorian carcass weights have gone from 21.13 CW in 2010 to 24.22 CW now.
  • Western Australian carcass weights have gone from 20.44 CW in 2010 to 22.39 CW now.

Average carcass weights in Queensland have not increased at the same rate as those in some of the other states of Australia during the last 11 years.

This presents an opportunity in Queensland for a lamb and mutton finishing industry to enable increased carcass weights for slaughtered stock.


Since the 1990s, the wool industry has suffered a decline, with many enterprises switching to running cattle.

In recent years, however, the rise in wool and mutton prices alongside the increase in exclusion fencing has provided the opportunity for a resurgence in merinos.

Wool prices

Case study

Benn Wilson



We could be two years into the next drought before we realised it was happening

Benn Wilson


One of the great advantages of fencing is the ability to manage grazing pressure, making the country more resilient and better able to withstand drought.

Demand for high-quality fibre remains high globally. While merino numbers have declined in recent decades, so the opportunity exists to take advantage of growing markets.

Long term sheep numbers in Queensland

Both wool and mutton prices have risen steadily from 2007, although they have declined recently, wool from December 2021 and mutton from September 2021

  • Lamb prices increased from 934¢/kg clean (EMI) in 2007 to 1,341¢/kg clean (EMI) now.
  • Mutton prices increased from 201¢/kg CW in 2007 to 508¢/kg CW now.

Fencing has not only decreased predation and increased reproduction rates, it has also brought biosecurity benefits, which cuts chemical costs.

Case study

Ben and Jack Banks



The opportunities are huge

Jack Banks


A return to wool sheep production has profound impacts on regional development, bringing people and money to a local area. With these come an increase in demand for services, creating job opportunities and bringing more people to the region.

The result can be a virtuous cycle that reinvigorates the community.


Goat meat prices have increased markedly over recent years, prompting many landholders to start running goats, either exclusively or alongside their existing stock.

Goat meat prices

Goat meat prices have risen dramatically from 230¢/kg CW in 2007 to 805¢/kg CW now. This includes very rapid gains between 2017 and 2019.

Case study

Matthew Bartlett



They turned an issue of controlling regrowth into an asset

Matthew Bartlett


While the goat industry has typically been focused on the export market, the domestic market is rapidly developing. Coming from a low base, it has massive potential for growth.

Goats also have the advantage of having a broader diet. This not only means that they are less harsh on paddocks, but that they also manage regrowth, often avoiding the need for any mechanical regrowth management at all.

Case study

Anita Dennis and Joe Taylor



It's opened up a lot of doors

Joe Taylor


Data collection and benchmarking are currently in their early stages in the goat industry, so as these are refined the potential to tailor a product to consumer needs will grow.

Work is also being put into developing new markets and new product differentiation, pointing to a bright future for the industry.

Blueprint objectives

The Blueprint will develop a preferred future for the Queensland small stock industries and a path to achieve that future. The Blueprint is owned and shared by industry, providing confidence to both current stakeholders and investors.

It has eight key objectives:


Increase small stock numbers

To 3.5 million head by 2026

Achieve this through a combination of better informed enterprise choices and growth of existing small stock enterprises.

Determine the optimum balance between enterprises like wool, sheep meat, goats and livestock trading based on geographical location, a well-informed and objective long-term view of the respective industries, resource capability, and personal preference.

Assist feral goat populations to improve genetics and graziers in husbandry techniques and stock management to reinforce goats as a viable economic asset.


3.5 million sheep and 250,000 farmed goats in Queensland by 2026.


Support and educate stakeholders around enterprise choice and the role of small stock to determine the optimum balance in their production system between wool, sheep meat, goats, cattle or livestock trading, with:

  • Gross margin calculator
  • Case studies
  • Regional suitability (production systems that fit with local environment and climatic conditions)
  • Infrastructure
  • Diversification to reduce risk.


Control pest animals

Through an increase in exclusion fencing

Further enable enterprise choice through private expansion of exclusion fencing in Queensland and take advantage of the support provided by state government for cluster fencing. Reduce losses due to predation as well as increasing reproductive rates and productivity through reduction of livestock stress.


15 million hectares with exclusion fencing in Queensland by 2026.


Support and educate stakeholders about the benefits of exclusion fencing with:

  • Case studies
  • Links to Not just a fence
  • Good ecological outcomes
  • Increasing viability, profitability and sustainability.


Manage seasonal variability

Via resilient enterprises that are synchronised with local conditions

Develop enterprises that are able to manage production through variable seasons with adjustments including supply chain specialisation, providing flexibility within breeding, growing and fattening enterprises in a similar way to cattle enterprises.


An increase in the number of producers able to manage enterprise to mitigate economic impact of seasonal variability and improve drought resilience.


Support and educate stakeholders around the benefits of management of seasonal variability including:

  • Managing total grazing pressure
  • Early de-stocking to protect environmental condition
  • Supply chain options to reduce stock numbers including sheep feedlotting
  • Risk management tools to mitigate economic costs
  • Case studies
  • Attitudinal surveys.


Improve productivity

Through peer-to-peer and science-to-industry knowledge transfer

Clearly articulate wool, goat and sheep carcass specifications and growth pathways to better meet market demands and achieve a higher return.

Identify any knowledge and/or research gaps and advocate for research, development and extension to ensure industry remains technologically sophisticated, innovative, competitive, sustainable and profitable.

Product quality, provenance and sustainability will assume increasing importance, as will ethical production practices which will be required to maintain industries license to operate.


12.5 million kilograms of greasy wool, 20 million kilograms (dressed weight) of mutton and lamb meat, and 10 million kilograms (dressed weight) of goat meat produced in Queensland by 2026.


Support and educate producers around increasing productivity relating to:

  • Reproductive rates in wool sheep, meat sheep and goats
  • Increased weight at turnoff for meat sheep and goats
  • Genetic selection for increased body weight in meat sheep and goats
  • Genetic selection for increased value of wool per head
  • Promote a continuous improvement mindset where productivity improvements are continuously pursued.

Tools for knowledge transfer include:

  • Case studies
  • Producer groups, benchmarking
  • Leading Sheep
  • Links to research materials, including at AWI and MLA
  • Improved communication between processors and producers.


Environmental management

Via pathways that integrate sustainable land management systems

Incorporate ecological benefits (including carbon sequestration) with viable commercial enterprise options.


Increase in producers capturing revenues for environmental management – 2,500,000 hectares of Queensland have an environmental management plan that incorporates delivery of environmental services.


Support and educate stakeholders around environmental management opportunities including:

  • Carbon sequestration in the landscape
  • Greenhouse gas emission management protocols
  • Ground cover measurement protocols
  • ABCD land condition assessment
  • Biodiversity management
  • Woody weed and regrowth control.

Participate in, and meet the standards of, an Australian livestock and wool industry provenance/sustainability scheme which has credibility in the eyes of customers in their target market for meat and wool.


Knowledge development

By developing and retaining skills within the industry

Enable growth of the industry as well as growth in productivity. Re-introduce rural training for young adults seeking a career in broadacre agriculture to enable the industry to be sustainable and to achieve its vision and goals. Support research and development activities focused on increasing productivity as well as new technologies to efficiency.


Both new entrants ands existing producers have access to knowledge relevant to small stock management.


Provide The Sheep and Goat Blueprint as a portal for knowledge transfer for everyone involved in the sheep and goat supply chain.

Allow for different skills across the supply chain as they emerge. Develop an industry narrative to attract new skills to the industry.

Develop a skills assessment tool so that producers can self-assess “what they need to know” to successfully run their business – and source these skills either by their own professional development, or by retaining expert advisers where needed.

Continue to drive the Research and Development required to enable the industry to become more competitive over time. Ensure that the Queensland sheep and goat industry of the future will be more technologically sophisticated.

Support the adoption of new technologies through providing opportunities for "innovation" professionals to contribute to the industry.


Industry attraction and collaboration

By promoting industry in a positive manner

Develop communication tools that reflect the underlying values of the industry's members. Collaborate with industry bodies such as Meat and Livestock Australia, Wool Innovation Australia and processing sector representatives to better position support and investment for sheep and goat meat production.


Position the industry in a positive manner that reflects the underlying core values.


Ensure the practices of the industry meet future community expectations.

Ensure product quality, provenance and sustainability, along with animal welfare and ethical production practices to maintain the industry’s social licence to operate.

Tools for communication include:

  • Sheep and goat blueprint narrative website
  • Case studies
  • Links to research materials, including at AWI and MLA
  • Leading Sheep
  • Improved communication between producers and consumers.

The sheep and goat industry has an interest in maintaining a critical mass of participants for both human resource and investment reasons. The industry needs to continue to identify, support the development of and celebrate a new generation of leaders who will act as role models for others.


Market promotion

By increasing demand in export and domestic markets

Promote wool, goat and sheep meat, in both export and domestic markets. Utilise the assistance of trade bodies including Australian Wool Innovation and Meat and Livestock Australia to achieve increased diversification of market and increase export volumes.


Promote domestic and international trade in wool, sheep and goat meat.


Work with processors, state and national export bodies to diversify and obtain new markets for wool, sheep meat and goat meat.