Setting the Scene

In Australia

The information and figures were gathered as part of a formal survey of information on agricultural land management practices on Australian farms.*

The key findings were :

  • Approximately 105,000 agricultural businesses (or 77% of all agricultural businesses) had livestock on their holding during the reference period. Of these businesses, 71% indicated that they held cattle and/or calves while 40%reported that they held sheep and/or lambs.
  • Around 62,000 agricultural businesses reported rotating livestock on grazing land, with 21,000 (34%) of those in New South Wales and 17,000 (27%) in Victoria.
  • Of the businesses breeding sheep in Australia, the lambing rate per 100 ewes was 98 for meat sheep and 90 for wool sheep.
  • Of lambs produced, 97 meat lambs per 100 ewes were weaned, while the figure for wool lambs weaned was lower at 85 lambs per 100 ewes.
  • The average age of lambs turned off was 13 months with an average weight of 40 kg.
  • Tactical grazing of sheep and goats was the predominant rotation method, with approximately 21 million head rotated this way nationally, in 153,000 paddocks covering 14 million hectares.
  • Of the businesses breeding cattle in Australia, the calving rate per 100 cows was 76 for meat cows and 79 for dairy cows.
  • Approximately 6.5 million cattle were rotationally grazed across an estimated 504,000 paddocks, covering an area of 24.4 million hectares. Businesses in Victoria reported rotation practices for around 2 million cattle, or 30% of the national figure, across 208,000 paddocks (41% of all paddocks). Queensland businesses rotationally grazed around 1.7 million cattle or 26% of the national total, across 10.8 million hectares, or 45% of Australia’s grazing area where rotation practices were conducted.
  • Set-stocking for cattle was undertaken on approximately 35.3 million hectares in Australia. Queensland accounted for 15.5 million hectares of this total (or 44%) while the Northern Territory accounted for 8.2 million hectares (or 23% of the total).

*RLF acknowledges the data collected in 2011-12 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and made available courtesy of Department of Agriculture and Food WA.

In New Zealand

In 2012 the following key statistics were determined as part of the annual survey of the agricultural industry animal production businesses on NZ farms.*

  • dairy cattle numbered nearly 6.5 million – 1% more than the previous year
  • sheep numbered 30.8 million – down 476,000 from the previous year
  • beef cattle numbered 3.7 million – down 36,000 from the previous year
  • deer numbers decreased by 3% to 1.0 million

The dairy industry continues to grow and the following chart maps this progress over a ten year period since 2002 :

*RLF acknowledges the data collected in the 2012 Survey of Farmers and Foresters conducted by Statistics New Zealand.

In China

  • Beef cattle numbers are falling slightly as the following graph shows, however at 45.5 million head this represents a significant industry reliant on pasture.

  • Dairy cattle number are increasing and at 15.3 million head represent the focus on supplying a reliable source of dairy products for the home market.

  • Goat numbers are also on the increase with 196 million head being recorded in recent census.
  • Buffalo are commonly accounted for in conjunction with beef cattle, and healthy populations of horses, donkeys and mules (combined total of approximately 20 million) are also still managed and used as part of China’s pastoral systems.

In other Regional Marketplaces

In 2005, FA) recorded the following statistics for ruminant numbers. These figures capture the combined total of livestock for both meat and milk production.

Across the Americas

A glimpse of wider global perspective shows animal production and grazing numbers from across Northern and Latin America as follows :

In the United States of America ruminant livestock production is a major segment of their agricultural industries. Income from beef cattle and calves, milk products, sheep, and goats totalled about US$93.7bn in 2007, compared to US$77.2bn income from grain crops. This shows the extent to which grazing is reflected in the country’s land use. In 2007 there were 373m hectares in farming enterprises, of which 165m hectares were in permanent pasture and rangeland (44%), 14.5m hectares of cropland used only for pasture (4%), 12m hectares in pastured woodland (3%) as opposed to 164m hectares in cultivated crops (44%) with the balance being assigned to other forms of agriculture such as horticulture.
In Canada pastures and grasslands occupy 44% of the total farmed area. In 2009 these areas were recorded as 15.5m hectares of natural forage land on private holdings, 5.7m hectares of seeded pastures, 2.9m hectares in sown hay and fodder crops and 5.1m hectares in alfalfa for both hay and pellets. In addition there are vast areas of natural rangelands. The total estimated value of forages used domestically exceeds US$1bn annually. Canada has an estimated 4.3 million beef cattle with the majority of these businesses being situated in the western provinces, with British Columbia being the largest.
In Argentina in 2005, there were 50.8m head of cattle, 12.5m head of sheep, 4.2m goats and 3.7m horses. In recent decades sheep numbers have declined considerably, whilst horse livestock increased dramatically.
In Brazil the predominant grazing production system relies on both native and cultivated pastures, which are stocked and grazed all year round. In 2004 there were 192m head of cattle, with three-quarters of these being for beef. There were 14.2m head of sheep, 1.2m buffalo and 9.1m goats. (Goats had increased dramatically on previous years). In addition there were 5.9m horses. Forage conservation is generally only managed for intensive dairy production systems and some rare feed- lot systems.