Lamb slaughter remains elevated

15 August 2018

According to the latest ABS data, year-to-June national lamb slaughter surpassed 12 million head for the first time on record.

  • Year-to-June lamb slaughter was up 9% year-on-year, at 12.02 million head
  • Year-to-June sheep slaughter was up 26% year-on-year, at 4.15 million head
  • Lamb carcase weights remained stable, at just over 23kg/head

Lamb slaughter

Despite a typical seasonal decline in June, lamb slaughter remains significantly elevated when compared to historical averages. Monthly lamb slaughter fell 21% from the high set in May, however, remained 10% above the five-year average for June.

Nationally, June lamb slaughter reached 1.88 million head, which brought the year-to-June total above 12 million head for the first time on record (according to ABS data, which dates back to January 1970).

The combined factors of high slaughter and extended drought in major supply regions across NSW, Victoria and SA have once again brought into question the supply of finished lambs later in the year.

Sheep slaughter

Despite the intention of many producers to expand the flock in 2018, poor seasonal conditions have seen monthly sheep slaughter at raised levels, particularly since April. Mutton slaughter, which typically reaches an annual low-point in June, totalled 563,000 head, up 35% on 2017 and up 19% on the five-year average.

For the year-to-June, sheep slaughter reached 4.15 million head, which was up 26% on 2017.

Carcase weights and production

As was the case in May, historically high prices for finished lambs led to a continuation of supplementary feeding programs in spite of the high feed costs and low pasture availability. The national average lamb carcase weight in June remained stable, at just above 23kg/head.

Given the higher slaughter and stable carcase weights, year-to-June lamb production totalled 277,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt), up 9% year-on-year.

After a marked fall in May, sheep carcase weights rose back above 23kg/head in June, to 23.4kg/head.

For the year-to-June, the national average sheep carcase weight was 23.05kg/head, representing a decline of 6% on 2017. Mutton production totalled 96,000 tonnes cwt for the same period, up 19% year-on-year.

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