Lamb production reaches new high in 2016

14 February 2017

According to the latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australian lamb slaughter in December lifted 9% year-on-year, with just over 2 million lambs processed. A 3% increase in the average lamb carcase weight (to 22.8kg/head) saw national lamb production increase 13% over the same period, to 45,962 tonnes cwt – underpinned by improved seasonal conditions throughout a number of key producing regions in the months prior.

This brought the 2016 total for national lamb slaughter marginally higher than the previous year – with close to 23 million lambs slaughtered.

At the conclusion of 2016, total lamb production finished just shy of 516,000 tonnes cwt – lifting 1% higher year-on-year. In 2016, compared to the year prior, lamb production in:

  • Victoria increased 1%, to 225,313 tonnes cwt
  • NSW increased 3%, to 123,162 tonnes cwt
  • SA declined 5%, to 85,634 tonnes cwt
  • WA increased 65,717 tonnes cwt
  • Tasmania decreased 16%, to 12,661 tonnes cwt

Favourable spring conditions across key producing areas in 2016 saw many producers look to retain stock in order to utilise feed availability – with greater offerings of heavier lambs in the physical market eventuating throughout December as a result. Lighter, store types therefore trended particularly dearer, underpinned by tighter numbers.

National mutton production and slaughter in December declined 24% and 28% year-on-year, to 14,242 tonnes cwt and 557,444 head, respectively. For 2016 as a whole, mutton production and slaughter decreased 16% and 18% year-on-year, with just over 169,800 tonnes cwt produced and 6.9 million head processed, respectively.

Looking forward, and highlighted in MLA’s 2017 Australian sheep industry projections, lamb production and slaughter are forecast to trend back towards 493,000 tonnes cwt and 22 million head, respectively – underpinned by slightly poorer marking rates and fewer ewes joined in the latter half of 2016.  Expectations are for the market to remain buoyant in 2017 as a result of tighter supplies. 

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