Sheepmeat production lower in 2016-17

08 August 2017


Very dry seasonal conditions across many key supply regions saw Australian lamb slaughter in June reach almost 1.8 million head, up 3% year-on-year (ABS). This brought the total for the financial year (July 2016 – June 2017) to just over 22.3 million head. While this was down 3% from the record highs of 2015-16, it remained 4% higher than the five-year average.

On a state-by-state basis for 2016-17, compared to last year, lamb slaughter in:

  • Victoria  was10.4 million head, up 1%
  • NSW was 5.1 million head, down 2%
  • SA was 3.4 million head, down 11%
  • WA was 2.9 million head, up 4%
  • Tasmania was 501,000 head, down 31%
  • Queensland was 68,300 head, down 79%

Sheep slaughter for June totalled nearly 420,000 head, up 18% from the same time last year. While there has been strong producer intent to retain older ewes and wethers over the past 12 months, it is likely that these animals are starting to come back through the system. The number of sheep processed during 2016-17 was just over 6.5 million head, down 19% year-on-year.



Lamb production for June totalled nearly 42,000 tonnes cwt, up 6% from the same time last year – with much of the increase underpinned by heavier carcases. For 2016-17, lamb production reached just over 506,000 tonnes cwt, back 2% on the year prior. This was, however, up 7% on the five-year average.

The national average lamb carcase weights increased to 22.64kg/head in 2016-17 – 1% higher than the year prior and up 3% from the five-year average. A drier autumn and winter this year has seen many lambs being supplementary fed, which has continued to push carcase weights higher.

Mutton production for June increased 29% year-on-year, to just over 10,500 tonnes cwt. The total volume for the financial year, however, was down 17% from 2015-16 and 13% from the five-year average, to just over 163,000 tonnes cwt.

In 2016-17, the national average sheep carcase weight increased 4% from the previous year and 7% from the five-year average, to 24.89kg/head. Heavier mutton carcases, largely due to improved management and genetics, assisted to offset the decline in mutton production somewhat over the last 12 month

The increase in average lamb and sheep carcase weights has influenced the Sheep Industry Projections August update, which has flowed on to upwards revisions to production and exports volumes for the 2017 calendar year.  

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