Meat & Livestock News

Surge in Optimism Among Victorian Sheep Farmers Reflects Broader Agricultural Confidence


  • Confidence among Victorian sheep farmers leads the nation, buoyed by positive seasonal forecasts and robust commodity prices.
  • Rabobank’s latest survey reveals a nationwide uplift in agricultural confidence, with the sheep and beef sectors experiencing notable improvements.
  • Farmers are increasingly planning to invest in their operations, focusing on infrastructure and expanding livestock numbers in light of optimistic market and seasonal expectations.

In a significant turn of events, sheep farmers in Victoria are spearheading a national revival in agricultural confidence. This uplift is captured in the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey, which shows Victorian farmer confidence soaring to the country’s highest, moving from a net -39 percent to 21 percent. This optimism is largely driven by the prospect of favourable weather conditions and strong commodity prices for the coming year.

The survey underscores a remarkable recovery in the red meat industry’s confidence levels. Nationally, the sheep sector’s net confidence has surged from -45 percent at the end of the previous year to 27 percent this quarter. Beef producers are not far behind, with their confidence increasing from -40 percent to 29 percent.

The primary drivers of this optimism are the anticipated rise in commodity prices, cited by 59 percent of the optimistic respondents, and the expectation of a good season, mentioned by 27 percent.

Despite a slight decrease in sheep prices at the year’s outset, prices remain significantly higher than last year’s lows. This stability, combined with anticipated better seasonal conditions, fosters a positive outlook for a more prosperous year ahead.

Reflecting this sentiment, national farmer confidence has shifted into positive territory for the first time since June 2022, with a net national rural confidence of 15 percent in the first quarter of 2024, marking a dramatic improvement from -41 percent in the last quarter of 2023.

The survey also indicates a growing trend among farmers to invest in their businesses, with 21 percent planning to increase investment, up from 15 percent in the previous quarter. This newfound confidence is translating into substantial investments in on-farm infrastructure, such as silos, fences, and yards, with 61 percent of those intending to increase investment focusing on these areas.

Additionally, about a third of these farmers are looking to expand their livestock numbers, signalling a positive outlook for the agricultural sector.

This optimistic shift in the agricultural sector is propelled by better-than-expected seasonal conditions over the summer, alongside the expectation of positive farm margins for the year ahead.

With agricultural commodity prices showing signs of improvement and the market adjusting after the high volumes of livestock sales last year, the outlook for beef and sheep prices is particularly positive, contributing to the significant turnaround in confidence observed across the sector.