Beef and sheepmeat markets: November summary

24 January 2018

Production and slaughter for the cattle and sheep markets both increased in November 2017, while lamb saw slight decreases in production, slaughter and carcase weights. 

Cattle

Adult cattle average carcase weights in November edged past the 300kg mark for the first time, supporting an increase in beef production.

Australian adult cattle slaughter totalled 632,484 head for November 2017, 7% higher than the rain-reduced turn-off seen in October (ABS). Although higher month-on-month, these figures were back 5% from November 2016, when dry conditions saw a spike in turn-off. With one month of data for the year to go, adult cattle slaughter levels for the year-to-date totalled 6.65 million head, similar to the same period in 2016.

On the back of higher November slaughter, production for the month lifted 9% from October, totalling 192,897 tonnes carcase weight (cwt) and was 2% lower than year-ago levels. This took production for the year-to-date to 1.98 million tonnes cwt, comparable to 2016 levels.

The national monthly average carcase weight for November was 305kg cwt, surpassing 300kg for the first time. The rise was largely driven by a lower proportion of female cattle in the national kill in November. The female proportion fell to 43% in November, the lowest percentage since January. Also influencing the rise in carcase weights was the greater proportion of cattle sourced from feedlots.

Despite a declining number of cattle on feed, feedlot consignments are anticipated to remain historically high. This, combined with an average seasonal outlook for some of Australia’s key beef producing regions driving female retention, is expected to see carcase weights remain above historical levels, further underpinning production.

Sheep

While the lamb industry experienced decreases in slaughter, production and carcase weights in November, sheep slaughter lifted 28% year-on-year as the results of a national flock rebuild began to flow through the production system.

In November, national lamb slaughter was 3% lower year-on-year, at 2.14 million head (ABS). A much-needed break in the season brought some relief to producers in the eastern states during October, reviving producer sentiment and restocker activity. Improved conditions throughout October helped bolster flock rebuilding in the short-term.

Lamb production moved 6% lower compared to the same period last year to 47,308 tonnes cwt, albeit off a high base the year prior. In addition, the national average lamb carcase weight edged lower in November to average 22.1kg.

Meanwhile, sheep slaughter lifted 28% year-on-year, to 858,000 head. This was largely due to the surge in processing which was sustained from June onwards - the result of poorer seasonal conditions over winter and the start of spring and as older ewes previously retained for flock rebuilding began to flow through into the production system. Sheep production in November increased accordingly; lifting 25% year-on-year to 21,780 tonnes cwt. Average sheep carcase weights remained close to historically high levels in November at 25.4kg, the result of improved genetics, supplementary feeding and better management.

More information and resources

Australian cattle slaughter and beef production
Australian sheep slaughter and production

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