Big drop in cattle kill leads to decline in January beef production

15 March 2016

Australia produced almost 150,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt) of beef in January, back 18% year-on-year and well below the average monthly volume for 2015 of 209,000 tonnes cwt (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

In-line with recent projections, the decline in production was somewhat mitigated by an increase in carcase weights. With large numbers of cattle on feed at the end of 2015 and an improvement in seasonal conditions across parts of Australia, average carcase weights increased 5% year-on-year, to almost 288kg. Adult carcase weights reached a peak in October 2011, at 292kg.

Overall adult cattle kill in January drove beef production lower. In particular, slaughter in:

  • Queensland declined 29% year-on-year, to almost 192,000 head
  • NSW and Victoria were both back 19%, at around 123,000 head each
  • SA declined 17%, to 33,000 head
  • WA was back 12%, at a little over 30,000 head
  • Tasmania recorded an 8% increase, to almost 19,000 head

The female portion of the kill also declined – from 49% last January to 46% this year – indicating some producers are looking to rebuild and females are becoming increasingly scarce. This may have also been a contributing factor to average carcase weights being heavier this January.

Given the significant decline in the cattle inventory and projected herd rebuild over coming years, the female portion of the kill may again decline to, or below, the 38% recorded in October 2011 at some stage this year. In addition, average female carcase weights in January increased 7% year-on-year (compared to males which increased 2%), reflecting the increased restocker demand for store cows and heifers and the lighter end being removed from the slaughter market.

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