Lamb production lifts in last month of spring

19 January 2016

Following lower year-on-year volumes for the first two months of spring, Australian lamb production lifted 4% in November, totalling 43,862 tonnes cwt. In fact, this was 9% higher than the five-year average for the month.

The rise in production was underpinned not only by an increased number of lambs processed during the month, but also heavier average carcase weights.

Lamb slaughter in November was up 2% on the corresponding month the year before and up 6% on the five-year average, at 1.98 million head. Producers reportedly turned new season lambs off around a month earlier than usual in spring 2015, with concerns of not having enough water and feed to carry them through the summer months.

The average lamb carcase weight in November was 22.2kg/head – an increase of 3% on both the same time last year and the five-year average. Carcase weights have gradually been getting heavier over the past 15 years, due to better ewe management programs, genetic advances, the transition towards meat-producing breeds, and evolving end-user specifications.

This brings the January to November lamb production total to 467,832 tonnes cwt, up 4% on the corresponding 11 months the previous year, with slaughter 2% higher over the same period, at 21.03 million head.

Looking ahead, lamb slaughter in 2016 is forecast to reach 21.5 million head – down 3% on the 2015 estimate. As a result of the tighter supplies, Australian lamb production is projected to decline 2%, to 482,000 tonnes cwt – slightly offset by an expected 1% increase in the average lamb carcase weight for the year. To read the 2016 Australian Sheep Industry Projections, click here.

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