Heavier carcases boost production

13 July 2017

Drying conditions and a poor seasonal outlook across southern Australia has resulted in a greater percentage of lambs and sheep being turned off during May. Furthermore, the deteriorating pasture conditions in many supply regions have seen more supplementary feeding of stock. This, along with genetic advances, has contributed to heavier carcase weights, boosting production in May.


In fact, May 2017 represents Australia’s second largest month of lamb production on record (behind November 2016), at 47,809 tonnes carcase weight (cwt) – up 4% year-on-year (ABS). The number of lambs processed during the month was 2.04 million head, 1% higher than year-ago levels.

Production was assisted by a 3% year-on-year increase in average lamb carcase weights, to 23.42kg/head.


Mutton production in May showed a substantial lift from 2016. Volumes rose 9% from year-ago levels, to 13,109 tonnes cwt. Much like lamb, the increase in mutton production was largely underpinned by heavier carcase weights which averaged 24.75kg/head in May – up 6% (or 1.45kg) from May 2016. The number of sheep processed for the month was up just 2% year-on-year, to 529,636 head.  

The Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal outlook for the July to September period forecasts that the majority of NSW has a 30-40% chance of exceeding median rainfall, while average rainfall in Victoria and south west WA is even less likely.

Although current indications are that producers are intending to retain ewes, the poor forecast may see turn-off increase short-term. This has already been observed through increased saleyard throughput and indicative eastern states June slaughter consignments, both registering above year-ago levels.

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