Retention of females underpins cattle slaughter contraction

14 March 2017

Australian adult cattle slaughter for January 2017 dipped 10% below year-ago levels, to 468,501 head (Australian Bureau of Statistics). Interestingly, this decline was driven by a 20% decrease in cow and heifer slaughter (to 190,798 head) while the number of male cattle processed eased only marginally year-on-year (1%), to 277,703 head. This reflects the higher percentage of females being retained across the country following a wet winter/spring period and some intermittent summer rainfall across the eastern seaboard.

This trend was particularly evident in NSW and Queensland, with male adult cattle slaughter actually lifting in both states while greater declines in female throughput drove an overall decrease.

In Queensland, male slaughter lifted 1% year-on-year to 126,554 head, while the female kill contracted 14% to 57,082 head – taking the state total for the month to 183,636 head, back 4% from January 2016. Meanwhile, in NSW, total slaughter declined 5% as a result of female slaughter slipping 20% to 47,959 head, despite male slaughter lifting 10% to 69,012 head.

Coupled with higher female retention and tighter supply, total slaughter throughput for January in;

  • Victoria eased 24% to 92,752 head, with the male and female proportion declining 16% and 31%, respectively.
  • SA was 31,136 head, back 6% year-on-year, with female slaughter lifting 1%, while male throughput eased 13%.
  • Tasmania was 16% lower, driven by a 26% and 2% decline in males and females processed, respectively.
  • WA eased 7% on the back of a 16% drop in females slaughtered, despite an increase of 4% in males processed.

As a result of the fewer numbers slaughtered, Australian beef production in January decreased 7% from the same time last year, to 138,624 tonnes cwt, however was partially mitigated by a 3% increase in the national average carcase weight for the month, at 296kg/head.

Looking forward, Australian cattle slaughter is anticipated to remain constrained by tight supplies for the remainder of 2017 and until herd rebuilding gains traction which has been hampered by poor seasonal outlooks.

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