FLOCK sustainability, or being able to breed enough sheep, is the biggest challenge facing the industry.
That's according to livestock consultant Dr Jason Trompf.
The answer could be in the joining of ewe lambs, he said.
Dr Trompf said the national flock had declined substantially in the past 20 years.
At the the recent BestWool/BestLamb conference in Bendigo, he blamed the decline on poor seasonal conditions, poor wool prices, high lamb slaughter rates and a national reproductive rate that had remained unchanged at about 80 per cent for 20 years.
Dr Trompf said ewe lambs were a severely under-used resource that could contribute significantly to flock growth.
"For instance, if ewe lambs were to have an average reproduction rate of 60 per cent, this would lift the national flock weaning rates by between 15 and 20 per cent," he said.
Dr Trompf said that while an increasing number of producers were joining crossbred and composite ewe lambs, merino breeders should also consider it.
Dr Trompf said a flock of 1000 ewes needed an annual replacement of 200 ewe lambs.
"If the flock currently lambs at 80 per cent, there will be 800 lambs per 1000 ewes," he said.
"If we join 200 ewe lamb replacements and achieve 60 per cent lambs, this will provide an extra 120 lambs and lift the reproduction rate by 15 per cent."