Carcase weights nudge higher while female kill reflects rebuild

08 November 2016

Recently released Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data indicates carcase weights continue to mitigate the fall in cattle slaughter. Across Australia, adult cattle slaughter totalled 555,000 head in September, taking the year-to-September total to 5.54 million head, down 20% year-on-year.

In particular, year-to-September adult cattle slaughter in:

  • Queensland totalled 2.56 million, back 22% year-on-year
  • NSW totalled 1.19 million head, back 20%
  • Victoria totalled 1.07 million head, back 21%
  • SA and WA each totalled 285,000 head, back 20% and 6%, respectively
  • Tasmania totalled 151,000 head, back 14%

However, as has been the case throughout 2016, increasing carcase weights, supported by a relatively high proportion of grainfed cattle slaughter and an improvement in seasonal conditions, have covered some of the beef shortfall. Averaging 286kg/head over the past twelve months, adult carcase weights have averaged 7kg heavier than the same period ending September last year and 10kg above where they tracked two years ago.

As a result, beef production has declined by a smaller, but still significant, degree than the national kill – down 18%, at 1.59 million tonnes cwt for the first nine months of the year.

The reduction in slaughter also reflects producer intentions to rebuild herds, with greater numbers of females retained for replacement breeders. So far this year, the female portion of the kill has averaged 48%, below the 51% and 52% recorded in 2014 and 2015, respectively, but not quite as low as the 44% in the wet year of 2012.

Looking ahead, slaughter numbers are projected to remain tight for the remainder of the year (albeit there has been a seasonal increase in slaughter cattle hitting the market in recent weeks) and into 2017 – MLA’s October cattle industry projections have forecast adult cattle slaughter to decline a further 3% in 2017 to 6.9 million head.

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