Altogether, the different livestock industries of NSW produce 44% of the product of agriculture by value, and in 2008 they produced 1 billion tonnes of meat and 1 billion litres of milk.
The Number and Value of agricultural livestock in NSW 2008:
NSW has Australia’s second largest number of beef cattle, after Queensland, with 5.3 million head or 21% of Australia’s cattle and calves. Beef was the most valuable product of agriculture in NSW, valued at $1.6b.
Beef cattle are raised on an estimated 50 million hectares throughout all agricultural areas of NSW, but most are found in the Upper Hunter, North West Slopes and the Northern and Central Tablelands. Beef cattle were raised on 49% of the farms counted in the 2006 agricultural census. In fact beef cattle production was carried out on more establishments than any other agricultural enterprise in NSW with over 14,000 farms and lot feeders receiving most of their income from beef production.
Whilst most beef cattle are grazed, about 3% of the NSW herd is held on feedlots at any one time. As cattle on feedlots are fed grain, most of the feedlots are located through the grain belt, from the Riverina north to Moree. Despite the drought which has prevailed since 2001, numbers of beef cattle in NSW have varied only slightly between 5.5m and 6m in the last 14 years.
The NSW dairy industry ranks second to Victoria, although production is only one fifth that of Victoria. The NSW dairy industry is highly reliant on fresh milk sales, with around 50 per cent of milk production being sold as drinking milk and the remainder used in manufacturing, whereas in Victoria a much higher proportion is manufactured into powder, butter and cheese.
The number of dairy farms in NSW has declined since deregulation, and the current number is almost half that of 10 years ago.
The decline in the number of farms has mainly been from the north and mid-north coast and today the largest farms are in the Murray valley, where pasture is irrigated and where producers are closer to Victorian manufacturers of powdered milk and cheese. Dairying is still important on the south coast around the cheese manufacturing centre of Bega.
The coastal farms use rain-fed pasture for grazing, and their average herd size is 200 animals, whereas along the Murray valley the average herd size is 400 animals. Fresh milk from the coastal farms is processed and packed in greater Sydney, Hexham in the Hunter and Bomaderry on the south coast.
The NSW sheep flock comprises 34% of the nation’s 77 million sheep and is the largest flock among the Australian states and territories. The flock has declined from 40 million animals to 26 million in the last 10 years, mirroring a similar decline in the national flock.
Sheep are run extensively across all regions of NSW except coastal areas and adjacent slopes. Traditionally, Merino sheep have been run primarily for wool production in far western and tablelands areas of the State, with Merino-Border Leicester crosses being concentrated in the slopes. A mix of wool and meat breeds have traditionally been run in the wheat-belt.
The greatest sheep densities within NSW occur in the tablelands and the adjacent slopes areas due to their relatively high carrying capacity flowing from the high rainfall experienced in these areas. The area comprising Crookwell, Boorowa and Yass, has the greatest sheep density within the State. However, cattle densities in these areas are also high, whereas sheep enterprises comprise a more significant proportion of overall agricultural activity in the western pastoral areas of the State.
Sheep numbers fluctuate as does the mix of wool and meat breeds. In recent years lower wool prices and good returns on sheep meat have increased the proportion of meat breeds. In 1995 the ratio of wool to meat value of total output was 4:1, and in 2008 it was 3:2.
The chicken meat industry is much larger than the egg industry, with an output worth $568 million, compared with $134 million in the egg industry (2008).
NSW growers produce 66 percent of the chicken meat in Australia and they operate the largest number of chicken meat farms. Production is concentrated near the consumers: around Greater Sydney, the Central Coast and lower Hunter (60%) with smaller production volumes in grain producing areas (for proximity to feed) around Tamworth (16%) and in the Riverina (18%).
NSW has six chicken meat processors who currently share 68% of the market and the NSW industry is characterised by having the majority of birds grown through a contract grower/processor relationship. On contract farms, processors provide the birds, feed, veterinary services, medication, animal husbandry advice, and undertake processing, marketing and distribution. Contract growers provide management, land and housing.
New South Wales is the largest pig producing State in Australia, and pig production and processing make a significant contribution to the rural economy. Piggeries are sited close to supplies of feed grains, either in small towns or near provincial cities.
NSW has approximately 600 commercial piggeries with a gross production value of $265 million. The majority of piggeries are small to medium sized family owned operations, with an average herd size for such operations of 130 sows. About 100 producers account for more than 90% of the sows kept. About 14% of pork production comes from the north coast, 8% from Tamworth/Gunnedah, 11% from the Young/Harden area, and about 40% from the Murray valley.
|Animals Numbers||Value ($m)|
|Sheep- (meat and wool)||26,378,000||$1,260|
|Poultry (meat and eggs)||31,786,000||$700|
Tony Moody, Industry and Investment NSW