Official slaughter, production figures released

Average cattle carcase weights reached 324.4 kg/head in the first quarter of 2022. That’s 10.8kg heavier than at the same time last year. Photo by Geoff Adams

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released its official livestock slaughter and production figures for the first quarter of 2022.

In the three months to March, average cattle carcase weights reached 324.4 kg/head.

This was 10.8kg heavier than at the same time last year.

Meat & Livestock Australia said the increase could be attributed to three key factors:

  • high cattle prices, which are providing an economic incentive to producers and feedlots to grow cattle out to heavier weights;
  • improved seasonal conditions in southern Queensland and NSW, which have provided producers with abundant feed; and
  • increased proportion of slaughter being sourced from the feedlot sector — in quarter one 55 per cent of slaughtered cattle came from feedlots.

Notably, Queensland cattle averaged 336 kg/head in the first quarter of 2022, the highest of any state and 12kg higher than the national average. Conversely, Western Australian cattle were the lightest at 293.4 kg/head, however, this is still considered a high weight for the state.

MLA’s Stephen Bignell said these high carcase weights were offsetting a drop in slaughter.

“The ABS results show that Australian cattle slaughter in quarter one was 1,335,400 head, a 5.8 per cent drop on the same quarter last year,” Mr Bignell said.

“Despite this nearly six per cent drop in slaughter number, Australian beef production dropped only 2.5 per cent due to the heavier cattle weights.

“Encouragingly cattle slaughter for Q1 2022 in NSW was three per cent higher than Q1 2021, rising to 297,000 head.

“The Female Slaughter Rate (FSR) which is technical indicator of whether we are in a rebuild, currently sits at 41 per cent, the lowest rate since Q4 2011. This indicates that the national herd is still within a strong rebuilding phase.”

The ABS figures show Australia produced 124,600 tonnes more lamb meat compared to Q1 2021.

This increase in lamb production was also achieved on the back of higher carcase weights.

In addition, lamb slaughter increased 11,800 head (0.2 per cent) to 4.97 million head, while lamb production in the first quarter of 2022 rose four per cent on the December quarter.

In quarter one 2022, lamb carcase weights were recorded at 25 kg/head, which was 491g more than quarter one 2021.

Lambs slaughtered in South Australia are the heaviest, weighing in at 26.6kg, overtaking NSW as the nation’s biggest lambs.

“The increase in lamb production in Q1 2022 reiterates MLA’s projections that Australian lamb production will rise in 2022,” Mr Bignell said.

“Despite the impacts of COVID on processor capacity and supply chains this quarter, the rates of lamb slaughter increased, with NSW, Victoria and Queensland all experiencing year-on-year increases in lamb production.

“Overall, this demonstrates that despite the herd rebuild and supply-chain disruptions shown in the first quarter of 2022, the red meat sector can produce more high-quality meat from fewer animals.”