The lamb industry is grappling with the "high quality" problem of juggling a drought-induced squeeze on supply with red hot demand in key export markets, says Meat & Livestock Australia managing director, Jason Strong.
And the problem won't vanish quickly even if the drought breaks in coming months because widespread rain will trigger flock rebuilding.
While the tough seasonal conditions were challenging for many producers, the upside was the sustained strong demand for lamb and sheepmeat.
Mr Strong said the current high prices weren't just being driven by a lack of supply but improved demand from consumers in major overseas markets.
He singled out the challenge posed by limited supply in best servicing growing lamb and sheepmeat markets in the US, China and the Middle East during the next 12 months.
"I think it's about making sure we support the highest end of those markets as well as we can," he said.
Another challenge was convincing people to keep buying lamb despite expensive retail prices.
Promotion was no longer about making consumers aware of lamb but convincing them the product still offered value around its convenience and ease-of-use compared with competitors like chicken.
"If you look at some of the feedback we have had from consumers in recent times, one of the standouts is the convenience of lamb and beef compared with chicken and pork," he said.
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Mr Strong said the decline in Merino ewes, the backbone of the industry, was a concern but he hoped high wool prices in the past couple of years would bring renewed stability in their numbers.
MLA was also paying close attention to radical animal activists and had noted a lull in their attacks on the sheep industry.
This provided the industry with an opportunity to get on the front foot to push the credentials and credibility of producers.
"There are plenty of opponents to animal production and we have to do everything we can to not only combat that but make sure we are proactive in putting out positive message about livestock production in Australia and sheepmeat and wool production are part of that," Mr Strong said.
One of his key ambitions for the MLA was to help the sheepmeat industry become even more sustainable from a financial, operational and environmental point of view.
The present broader community discussion about sustainability and animal welfare gave the industry the chance to shape what it wanted to look like in the future.
Better sustainability outcomes would be driven by long-term financial viability and the MLA could aid that process by supporting the industry to access the best-value markets for its products.
Strong will be the guest speaker at this year's Lambition event in Bendigo on July 20.
He is looking forward to updating the Lambition audience on the latest MLA market and consumer research for lamb and sheepmeat.
Mr Strong said his speech will cover the expected impact that ongoing drought will have on flock and slaughter numbers in the second half of this year and into 2020, particularly without a major break in the weather in coming months.
He will also talk about consumer sentiment and the longevity and sustainability of growing demand for Australian lamb in key export markets like the US, China and the Middle East.
Mr Strong said he would also outline progress in some of the MLA's key investments in sheepmeat research including the DEXA technology in abattoirs for objectively measuring carcase quality and yield.
Events like Lambition were ideal for the MLA to "get the message out" about its involvement in the sheepmeat sector and its determination to support the industry "in any way we can", Mr Strong said.
He conceded beef had played a major part of his own career but his first qualification after leaving school had been as a woolclasser. His life growing up on a mixed farm had also involved sheep.
At a young age he had been told there were two things you never told anybody once you had learned to do them - shearing a sheep and playing prop at rugby. He had ticked both those boxes!