Retention reels in slaughter
08 June 2017
Stock retention amid already tight supply, strong sheep and wool prices, supply challenges causing processing plant closures and a string of public holidays. The combination of these factors resulted in a considerable contraction in Australian mutton and lamb slaughter in April.
Results from the February MLA and AWI wool and sheepmeat survey suggested that more than 60% of respondent producers were intending to retain ewes and almost 40% were planning to increase ewe numbers. Of those who planned on expanding their ewe flocks, the majority indicated they would achieve this through retaining replacements and older ewes.
These producer intentions to hold on to stock have further impacted the already short supply of both lambs and mutton. In April, the number of lambs processed was 1.56 million head, 21% less than April 2016 (ABS). Mutton slaughter decreased 38% year-on-year, to 624,984 head.
This decline was predominantly driven by a reduction in numbers in Victoria, where mutton slaughter dipped to 161,067 head, down 39%. Lamb processing declined 17%, to 733,932 head.
SA, WA, Tasmania and Queensland also recorded downward trends.
On the other hand, NSW mutton slaughter in April was similar year-on-year, at 126,537 head. Meanwhile, lamb slaughter declined 24% from year-ago levels, to 331,823 head.
The lower slaughter saw production decrease by similar margins. Mutton production was offset slightly by a 2% increase in the average carcase weight, to 24.19kg/head. Meanwhile lamb carcase weights remained steady year-on-year, at 23.10kg.
Given the retention of stock and the seasonal decline in supplies, stock available for slaughter is anticipated to remain tight until August/September when the spring flush comes through.
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