Dry conditions bring elevated slaughter and lower carcase weights

12 September 2018

Challenging conditions led to increased cattle, lamb and mutton slaughter in July, as well as a decline in carcase weights across the board.  

Cattle

Challenging dry conditions have defined 2018 for many producers across the eastern seaboard, with July being no exception. National cattle slaughter for the month totalled just over 712,000 head, bringing the year-to-date total to 4.5 million head, up 10% year-on-year.

Female slaughter has continued to be a driving force in this increase, making up 54% of the national kill in July, up 5 percentage points on July 2017. The 12-month rolling average for July was 48%. Typically, the Australian cattle herd is considered to be in a contraction phase when the proportion of female slaughter exceeds 47% of total slaughter over a 12-month rolling average.

Beef production in July totalled over 203,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt), bringing the year-to-date total to 1.3 million tonnes cwt – up 8% on 2017 levels. While production increased, it was not to the same extent as slaughter, as the high proportion of females slaughtered saw average carcase weights decrease 4% year-on-year, to 286kg cwt for July.

Lamb

National lamb slaughter in July increased 10% on year-ago levels, to 1.8 million head. This brought the year-to-date total to just over 13.8 million head. Lower lamb carcase weights in July somewhat offset the higher slaughter, as production increased 5% to just over 40,000 tonnes cwt. For the year-to-July, the volume of lamb produced reached just over 317,000 tonnes cwt, an 8% increase on 2017 levels and the highest for the first seven months of the year on record.

Sheep

The difficult seasonal conditions have led to a pronounced increase in sheep slaughter this year, as producers continue to destock in the face of low feed availability. The year-to-date total almost reached 4.78 million head, up 27%, or just over 1 million head, year-on-year. In turn, mutton production also increased by 19% for the year-to-July (110,000 tonnes cwt), although not to the same extent as slaughter, with lower carcase weights a result of the season. Average mutton carcase weight for July was 22.7kg – an 11% or 2.8kg drop from July 2017.

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