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Slaughter lifts as relief comes for the processing sector

20 January 2022

Key points:

  • NSW and WA lamb slaughter is above 2020 levels
  • Tasmanian lamb slaughter is the highest in the past 3 years
  • Goat slaughter has started the year strongly

Despite reports to the contrary, there have been some strong processor numbers to start 2022. While lamb and cattle slaughter numbers are below 2020 and 2021 levels so far this year, circumstances are improving.

Changes to the national definition of a close contact and isolation rules for abattoir workers have seen the weekly kill numbers improve this week. Cattle slaughter improved 50% this week to 62,000 head while lamb slaughter rose by 100,000 head this week to 319,000 head. These numbers are encouraging, although cattle slaughter is down 28% and lamb slaughter down 29% from the same week last year.

Looking at specific states and species provides a slightly more nuanced picture of the situation.

 In WA, where the current Omicron outbreak has not yet exploded, they are processing 46,264 head of lambs – above 2020 levels of 45,500 and only slightly below 2021 levels. NSW, which some reports indicate has passed the peak of the Omicron outbreak, is observing a similar trend. Weekly lamb slaughter in NSW is 100,886, above the 98,000 head recorded in 2020 when the state was still in drought and experiencing lower marking and joining rates.

In Tasmania, the 7,434 head of lambs processed this week is above the weekly slaughter of both 2020 and 2021 – great news for lamb producers in the island state who are looking to turn lambs off.

As goat producers begin harvesting goats again after 18 months to two years of rebuilding, goat slaughter numbers are exploding. National weekly goat slaughter was 30,000 head last week, up 25% on 2021 levels.