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Record male carcase weights in late 2021

24 February 2022

Key points:

  • Record male carcase weights were recorded in the December 2021 quarter.
  • Grainfed beef production accounts for 54.5% of total Australian beef production.
  • National feedlot capacity hit a new all-time record.

MLA released its December 2021 Lot feeding brief today, with the results revealing the current strength of the lot feeding industry.  

For the sixteenth consecutive quarter, there were over 1 million head of cattle on feed. Meanwhile, 50% of all cattle slaughtered in this quarter came from a feedlot, and 54.5% of all Australian beef was grainfed  – a new record for industry.  

These figures demonstrate that the feedlot sector has provided the supply chain with continued product, despite the rebuild limiting available slaughter cattle.  

Capacity and utilisation  

In this quarter, national feedlot capacity – the number of cattle approved to be on feed – reached a new record of 1,453,580, with the new approved yarding coming largely from NSW. At the same time, utilisation – the number of cattle currently on feed as a percentage of capacity – rose 3% for the quarter to reach 80%. This simultaneous rise in capacity and utilisation means that new feedlot yards being built are being filled easily.  

During the December 2021 quarter, 766,967 cattle entered the feedlot sector – demonstrating that despite high saleyard prices and tight supply, feedlots were able to source cattle.  

Numbers of cattle in WA rose 40% to 40,193 head. This is in line with historical seasonal trends, as given the state’s Mediterranean climate, more cattle in the state are sent to feed in Summer and early autumn when feed drops.  

Strong carcase weights 

The increased proportion of cattle being slaughtered coming from feedlots led to new male carcase weight records in most states. This was a result of record over-the-hooks (OTH) prices which averaged 723.04c/kg for the quarter – exceeding $7 for the first time.   

Male carcase weights in Tasmania and Queensland exceeded 350kg/head at 352kg and 353.3kg respectively. Nationally male carcase weights were 343.1kg/ head. WA – the state with traditionally the lightest cattle – was still recording weights above 300kg at 308kg, a 10kg jump for the quarter. The national female carcase weights were 279.7kg/head – not as high as the 280.6kg recorded in Q1 of 2021. 

The key numbers 

  • quarter on quarter national cattle on feed hit 1,159,991 head – a 40,898 head increase for the quarter 
  • the number of cattle on feed in NSW increased by 28,608 head, or 9.5%, to 330,977 head 
  • the number of cattle on feed in SA increased by 7,769 head (21.4%), to 44,096 head 
  • the number of cattle on feed in WA increased by 11,359 head (39.4%), to 40,193 head 
  • Victoria recorded a decrease in cattle numbers on feed, with numbers dropping by 6,008 head (9.8%) to 55,326 head. 

The December 2021 quarter Lot feeding brief is available here.