Subscribe to MLA's e-newsletters

Stay informed with the latest red meat and livestock industry news, events, research and marketing.

Sign up
Back to News & Events

ABS 2022 slaughter and production performance analysis

17 February 2023

Key points:

  • Cattle slaughter in 2022 reached 5.88 million head, its lowest level since 1984.
  • Lamb production reached record highs in 2022 at 534,500 tonnes, underpinned by a genetically superior lamb cohort.
  • Sheep carcase weights reached record highs of 25.9kg/head, 7% higher than the 10-year average.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its official livestock and production figures for the final quarter (Q4) of 2022 on Thursday 16 February.

This data has delivered a picture of how 2022 performed in slaughter, production and carcase weight terms for the red meat and livestock sector according to the Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) Markets team.

Despite cattle slaughter falling, record carcase weights ensured beef production remained firm. Comparatively, lamb production and sheep carcase weights reached record highs.


Cattle slaughter fell 2.8%, or 171,400 in 2022 compared to 2021, to reach 5.85m head. This volume was the lowest yearly slaughter rate since 1984.

Adjustments to performance across all states occurred throughout 2022, with Queensland experiencing a 5.5%, or 157,000, fall in total cattle processed. This resulted in its market share falling 1.3% to 46.8% year-on-year.

Victoria also experienced a drop in numbers with a 5.5%, or 67,500 head, decline in the number of head processed. This led to a fall in market share for Victoria by 0.6% to 20.2%.

Western Australia was the state that increased its slaughter rates in 2022 with the opening and expansion of some processing plants. Last year WA slaughter throughput increased 13.8% or 45,500 head.

Carcase weights for 2023 averaged 319kg/head, firm on 2021 levels. This weight was 13%, or 37kg/head, above the 20-year average and 6%, or 19kg/head, above the five-year average.

Due to record high carcase weights, overall beef production fell by only 0.77%, or 14,400 tonnes.

These carcase weights have offset falls in slaughter. Compared to the 10-year average, beef production was down 15.7% or 348,000 tonnes.

This data demonstrates the genetic investment producers have made by retaining and breeding high-quality stock over the past two years.

These carcase weights have offset falls in slaughter. Compared to the 10-year average, beef production was down 15.7% or 348,000 tonnes.

Table 1. 2022 vs 2021 slaughter rate changes


CY 2022


Percentage Change

Actual Change

















Lamb slaughter reached record highs in 2022, at 21.45 million lambs processed, its highest volume since the drought-induced liquidation of 2019. This was a rise of 2.9%, or 595,400 head.

Sheep slaughter in 2022 exceeded MLA’s July release of Sheep Projections by 7.7%, or 512,500 head, to register 6.63 million sheep processed. This volume was a 15%, or 864,700 head, lift on 2021 rates.

Lamb carcase weights in 2022 were the second highest on record at 24.92kg/head, only behind 2021 rates. This weight was 9.1% or 2kg/head higher than the 10-year average.

Sheep carcase weights reached records in 2022 at 25.9kg/head. This is 7%, or 1.7kg, higher than the previous record set in 2019 at 24.6kg/head.

A new production record was reached in 2022 with lamb production increasing by 5.2%, or 26,400 tonnes, year-on-year to hit 534,500 tonnes in 2022.

Historically high carcase weights, underpinned by a genetically superior lamb drop, have driven this improvement, alongside the uptick in slaughter.

Sheepmeat production for 2022 increased 12.1%, or 18,700 tonnes, compared with 2021 volumes. This is an increase of 12.1%, or 18,700 tonnes, and can be attributed to favourable seasonal conditions as well as improved genetics. The 2022 mutton production was the highest since 2020.

MLA Markets data review

Next week, MLA will analyse male and female carcase weight performance and goat production.

In future editions, the female slaughter rate and stock turnoff ratio will be analysed and insights will highlight how aligned these key metrics are to the cattle herd’s growth, as referenced in our 2022 cattle industry projections released in late January.