The "mismanagement of our irrigation water" is the reason for the national flock numbers to be at their lowest level in more than a century, according to Northern Victorian Irrigation Communities.
NVIC chairman Dudley Bryant said issues with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan meant sheep and lamb producers, who rely on irrigation water, were struggling to survive.
“The government’s mismanagement of our irrigation water has certainly taken its toll on producers and the national flock, which will be felt for many years to come,” he said.
According to Meat & Livestock Australia, national flock numbers have continued to plummet.
“On the back of the warmest and driest year on record, water and feed availability created heightened pressures for producers, particularly in NSW and northern Victoria, with many forced to offload core breeding stock,” MLA's website said.
“At 63.7 million head, the national flock is now estimated to be at its lowest level in more than a century.”
Kerang prime lamb and first-cross ewe breeder Geoff Kendell, who in the past two-and-a-half years has destocked his entire 4600-head flock, said a secure water supply was needed to allow him to keep his sheep.
“We just can’t operate our business without a secure supply of water,” he said.
“It’s insanity to say that the mismanaged water plan hasn’t affected our irrigation communities.
“The river has been in constant flood but they won’t let us use the water.
“I don’t understand why they haven’t put a strategy in place to use the millions of litres of water being wasted to either help feed our population or help reduce the national debt through export earnings which are both vital to our economy.”
Mr Bryant said the lack of water had also seen the demise of Kerang’s prime lamb market, once the third biggest market in Victoria.
He said the loss of more than 227 000 stock estimated to be worth $34 million had been devastating to the community, farms and commercial businesses.