National lamb slaughter

12 September 2019

The latest ABS slaughter data reports national lamb slaughter at 1.5 million head in July, well below year-ago levels and stable with June volumes – the lowest monthly slaughter since January 2012.

The decline was underpinned by the limited availability of old season lambs. As much of the country continues to endure dry conditions, the tighter supply of new season lambs entering the market throughout spring will be a key driver to how national indicators track. 

The national saleyard trade lamb indicator rose to 934¢/kg carcase weight (cwt) in mid-July, as saleyards saw strong demand from processors to maintain supply. It has since dropped more than 100¢ and on Tuesday was recorded at 796¢/kg cwt, falling 17¢ below year-ago levels.

Despite heavy lambs trading at an average premium of 52¢ to trade lambs, the average carcase weight for lambs eased to 23.4kg cwt in July, as climate variability continues to challenge weights. However, the prevalence of supplementary feeding has seen carcase weights trending 2% higher for the calendar year-to-July.

Lamb production remained stable in July in line with reduced kills, reported at 35,100 tonnes cwt, 13% below year-ago levels. Lamb production is expected to tighten in the back half of the year, given the expectation for reduced lamb numbers.

Last week eastern states lamb slaughter totalled 324,500 head, improving 13% from the prior week and 26% higher year-on-year, an indication that new season lambs have arrived earlier than anticipated, despite the expectation for fewer lambs when the Spring flush hits in earnest. Lamb yardings also increased week-on-week, with 170,400 head penned last week, an improvement of 17% on the week prior.

© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2019

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