Total number of sheep and lambs in Australia in 2005 was 101,125,000 which dropped significantly to 91.9 million as of June 30, 2006.
WA Live Exporters Association chairman John Edwards said the situation had severely affected the supply of older, heavier type sheep.
³The Middle East market in particular are looking for this class of sheep, but due to the wool market and seasons this type of sheep is slowly being lost out of the system,² Mr Edwards said.
³It is a concern as the Middle East relies on Australian sheep for the heavier weights and can source lighter, poorer quality sheep from other countries.
³Exporters are having to work hard to source sheep at the moment and to maintain marketshare, especially when sheep prices aren¹t easing here.
³The combination of lower liveweights and the exchange rate is putting pressure on the market and will do until spring when more sheep should come onto the market.²
Mr Edwards said some shipments out of WA in the past couple of months would struggle to average 42-43kg, which was a significant drop in average weight in normal shipments.
³The 58-60kg wethers just aren¹t out there anymore, especially following last year¹s season where most producers had to sell off the older age sheep earlier than normal,² he said.
³Most of the live export orders now are being filled with last year¹s wether lambs, which are mostly red tags, plus there are still a few yellow tags (2005 drop) going out.
³The 2003 and 2004 age group sheep are as scarce as hens¹ teeth though.²
Mr Edwards said ships coming to WA would either sail light or head to the east to complete a load.
³With good rains in most parts of NSW and Victoria last week there could be a problem with sourcing sheep over there as well,² he said.
³We have been saying for four to five years that the sheep numbers are going to hit a wall, but they always seem to come out of the woodwork.
³The next 12 months are going to be tough though I think.²
Emanuel Exports live export manager Gary Robinson said there was no doubt supply had tightened up, but his company was still filling its requirements at this stage.
³The quality and weights are definitely down, which is not unusual for this time of year,² Mr Robinson said.
³Ships are still going to the east with part-loads to fill up.²
Mr Robinson said the company¹s shipping program for the coming months was pretty consistent.
³We will fill the boats but we may not necessarily fill them with the preferred stock that the market wants,² he said.
³It does make it hard to fill market requirements with the Middle East wanting 60-70pc of the sheep in the heavier weight range, but with the changing nature of the Australian flock this type is gradually being eroded.²