THE Glenelg Hopkins region, which includes Ararat and areas to the south, is Australia’s third most productive sheep and lamb region.
However, the Glenelg Hopkins and Wimmera regions have seen multiple years of declining flock numbers in a row.
Despite the region’s flock decreasing every year since 2013, Glenelg Hopkins has retained a top spot in the league table of sheep and lamb production.
Glenelg Hopkins produced just of over 5.03 million sheep and lambs in the 2015-16 financial year, the latest period for which figures were available.
This was down from a recent peak of almost 6.02 million head in 2013.
The Wimmera region, which starts between Ararat and Stawell, was 15th on the ladder with almost 1.84 million head of sheep and lambs.
Glenelg Hopkins produced just over 470,000 head of meat cattle in 2015-16, down 17.85 per cent from 2014-15.
Glenelg Hopkins covers the south west corner of Victoria between South Australia, the coast and the Grampians National Park, with the eastern border at Skipton, Terang and Ballarat.
The Wimmera region produced 34,266 head of meat cattle in 2015-16, down more than 56 per cent from 2014-15.
Both regions saw their meat cattle flocks reach a recent peak in 2014-15.
Victorian Farmers Federation livestock president Leonard Vallance said producers in Glenelg Hopkins and Wimmera were likely to have been chasing faster and better returns in cropping.
“What you are seeing is a change of farming practices to more cropping, that’s all,” he said.
“There’s canola, chickpeas, other feed grains being grown.
“That’s directly relating to the economics of the operation and seasonal conditions as well.”
Mr Vallance said it was difficult to predict if the number of sheep and lambs in Glenelg Hopkins would continue to decrease.
“Tell me what the price of canola and price will be in two years’ time,” he said.
“Return from livestock and wool are very strong at the moment, cropping prices have recovered a bit this year. It’s very hard to call at this stage.
“This winter is going to test the croppers out, no doubt about that.”
Mr Vallance said high prices could discourage some farmers from restocking their cattle.
“Cattle aren’t nearly as profitable as asheep and wool and cropping,” he said.
“The length of return for cattle is a very long supply pipeline.
“You buy a cow, it’s two years before you can sell the calf. It takes 90 days to grow a crop and have cash in your pocket. With sheep, you’re looking at a year.”