Industry projections – what lies ahead?

01 February 2018

Cattle sales

Stable lamb production and a slight decline in mutton production is forecast as producers continue to expand flocks.

Lamb and sheep slaughter are both expected to drop slightly in 2018 (to 22.5 million head and 7.2 million head, respectively), carcase weights will increase.

Cattle supplies are likely to remain tight, with only a small increase expected in adult slaughter to 7.4 million head as the herd rebuild continues.

An easing of carcase weights (after a record year in 2017 when they averaged 298kg) combined with a forecast increase in slaughter is expected to result in total beef production lifting by 1% this year to 2.17 million tonnes (cwt).

Here are the key summary points:


  • ongoing herd rebuild to restrict cattle flow in 2018
  • adult slaughter expected to lift 3% to 7.4 million head
  • cattle on feed forecast to ease after a record year in 2017
  • strong competition from US and Brazil to place pressure on global prices.


  • strong international demand expected to continue to support lamb and mutton prices
  • lamb exports anticipated to pull back slightly, while shipment volumes forecast to build to new highs in 2019 and beyond as production increases
  • producers continue to rebuild the national flock, leading to a slight decline in sheep and lamb slaughter as retention increases.

Read the projections in full

Cattle industry projections

Sheep industry projections

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