The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released its official livestock slaughter and production figures for the first quarter of 2022.
In the three months to March, the average cattle carcass weight reached 324.4 kg/head. This was 10.8 kg more than at the same time last year.
According to Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), this increase can be attributed to three key factors:
- High livestock prices, which provide an economic incentive for producers and feedlots to raise livestock to heavier weights.
- Improved seasonal conditions in southern Queensland and New South Wales, which provided growers with ample food.
- Increased proportion of slaughter from the feedlot sector. In the first quarter, 55% of cattle slaughtered came from feedlots.
Notably, cattle in Queensland averaged 336kg/head in the first quarter of 2022, the highest of any state and 12kg more than the national average. Conversely, Western Australian cattle were the lightest at 293.4 kg/head, however, this is still considered high weight for the state.
According to Stephen Bignell, market intelligence manager at MLA, these high carcass weights are compensating for a drop in slaughter.
“The ABS results show Australian cattle slaughter in the first quarter was 1,335,400 head, down 5.8% from the same quarter last year. Despite this nearly 6% drop in slaughter numbers, Australian beef production fell only 2.5% due to higher cattle weights,” Bignell said.
“Encouragingly, cattle slaughter for the first quarter of 2022 in New South Wales was 3% higher than the first quarter of 2021, reaching 297,000 head.
“The female cull rate (FSR), which is a technical indicator of whether we are in the rebuilding phase, is currently at 41%, the lowest rate since the fourth quarter of 2011. This indicates that the national herd is still in a solid rebuilding phase.”
In lamb, Australia produced 124,600 tonnes more lamb meat compared to the first quarter of 2021. This increase in lamb production was also achieved through higher carcass weights. In addition, lamb slaughter increased by 11,800 head (0.2%) to 4.97 million head, while lamb production in the first quarter of 2022 increased by 4% compared to the quarter of december.
In the first quarter of 2022, lamb carcass weight was recorded at 25kg/head, 491g more than in the first quarter of 2021. Lambs slaughtered in South Australia are the heaviest weighing 26.6kg, overtaking NSW as the biggest lambs in the country.
“The increase in lamb production in the first quarter of 2022 reiterates MLA’s projections that Australian lamb production will increase in 2022.
“Despite the impacts of COVID on processing capacity and supply chains this quarter, lamb slaughter rates have increased, with NSW, Victoria and Queensland all seeing year-on-year increases in lamb production.
“Overall, this demonstrates that despite herd rebuilding and supply chain disruptions seen in the first quarter of 2022, the red meat industry can produce more high-quality meat from fewer animals. “, Mr. Bignell said.