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A year of growth for livestock sector with surging production

22 February 2024

Key points:

  • Australia produced the greatest number of lambs in 2023.
  • Lamb slaughter rose by 16.38%, the highest calendar year slaughter.
  • The female slaughter rate (FSR) was 46.87%.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released its quarterly statistics on slaughtered livestock and meat production. The standout headlines are record lamb production and calendar year lamb slaughter of 24,909,600 head – a record quantity.  

Sheep and lambs

The record lamb slaughter and production is due, to a significant flock rebuild since 2020. In 2023, the country produced 599,461 tonnes of lambs, the highest ever in a calendar year, meaning there was more lamb product available domestically and in key export markets.

Lamb slaughter increased by 16.38% to 24,909,600 head. This record lamb slaughter was 1,953,400 head more than the previous record set in 2016. This surge was driven by the largest sheep flock seen in 15 years, which includes the greatest number of ewes and biggest number of lambs resulting in record slaughter and production rates.

Despite initial concerns about processing capacity, the latest figures indicate that facilities are capable of handling the numbers supplied. Lamb carcase weights slightly decreased by 3.64% to 24.09kg, which is close to the ideal domestic carcase weight for Australian retailers (24kg).

There was also a significant increase in sheep and mutton production last year, a 43% increase in mutton production reaching 2,46,003 tonnes, the highest since 2006.


In 2023, Australia had its largest cattle herd in over a decade, totalling 28.8 million head. Processing capacity also increased to handle just over 7 million cattle slaughtered, up 20% compared to 2022, marking the slaughter volume since 2020. 

Beef production saw a notable 18% increase year-on-year, reaching 2,210,954 tonnes, the highest since 2019.

The female slaughter rate (FSR) for the December quarter was 46.87%, indicating a phase of marginal growth for the Australian cattle herd after two consecutive destocking periods.