Reduced volatility in Australian lamb slaughter

18 August 2016

Over the past two years, Australian lamb slaughter has become much less volatile. Since August 2014, looking at a rolling 12-month average, more than 22 million lambs have consistently been processed over any given 12-month period. In fact, since February 2016, the rolling annual lamb slaughter has increased to more than 23 million head.



The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report that Australian lamb slaughter for the 2015-16 fiscal year edged 1% higher than the previous year and was up 13% on the five-year (2010-11 to 2014-15) average, at 23.13 million head.

The average Australian lamb carcase weight for 2015-16 also increased 1% year-on-year and 2% on the five-year average (21.91kg/head), to 22.32kg/head. As a result, Australian lamb production reached 516,366 tonnes carcase weight (cwt) in 2015-16 – 2% greater than year-ago levels and 15% above the five-year average.

Lamb slaughter contraction forecast in 2017

Looking ahead, MLA’s forecast lamb slaughter for 2016 (calendar year) is 23 million head.  This was revised slightly higher from the April forecast as results from the MLA & AWI wool and sheepmeat survey in June indicated there were 4% more lambs on hand as of 30 June 2016, at 26 million head, and that ‘expected lamb sales’ over the July-to-October period were 12% higher, compared to the corresponding periods last year.

The survey results also reported a 15% decline in the number of ewes joined in the June survey period. These factors combined indicate that a contraction in lamb availability is more likely to occur in the first half of 2017, rather than the second half of this year. After a decline in lamb slaughter next year, expectations are that kill numbers will rise after 2017, moving towards 24 million head in 2020.

For further analysis and forecasts for the Australian Sheep Industry, read the July 2016 update of MLA’s Sheep Industry Projections here.

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