Meat & Livestock News

2023 Q3: A Pivotal Period for Australian Cattle and Sheep Industries

Cattle farming, breeding, milk and meat production concept

Recent data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the third quarter of 2023 provides a revealing snapshot of the Australian cattle and sheep industries, marked by significant shifts and trends.

Cattle Industry: A Detailed Look

The cattle industry witnessed a substantial increase in slaughter rates during this period, with numbers reaching 1.91 million head. This represents an 11% increase from the previous quarter and a notable 23% rise from the same period last year, the highest since early 2020.

This upsurge was consistent across all states, with South Australia leading at a 48% increase and Western Australia at the lower end with a 4% rise.

A key aspect of this trend is the gender disparity in slaughter rates. Male cattle slaughter saw an 8% increase to 974,000 head, while female slaughter rose by 13% to 936,000 head. The female slaughter rate (FSR) stood at 49% for the quarter, indicating a move towards destocking in the cattle herd.

The nature of cattle turn-off also shifted, with a 24% increase in grass-fed cattle to 1.29 million head, contrasting with a 10% decrease in feedlot turn-off to 689,000 head. This shift resulted in grass-fed cattle making up 68% of the total turn-off, a proportion not seen since 2015.

Cattle carcass weights experienced a minor decrease, averaging 309kg, down by 1.1kg from the previous quarter. This change is likely due to the increased proportion of cow and heifer slaughter. Production levels saw a significant year-on-year increase of 20% to 589,406 tonnes, the highest since the fourth quarter of 2019.

Beef exports and domestic consumption both showed upward trends. Exports increased by 20% year-on-year to 409,908 tonnes, and domestic consumption rose by 7% to 179,498 tonnes, the highest since 2018.

Sheep and Lamb Industry: Trends and Changes

The sheep and lamb sectors also experienced noteworthy changes. Lamb slaughter reached a record high of 6.58 million head, up 9% from the last quarter and 20% from the third quarter of 2022.

Sheep slaughter, however, showed a decrease of 18% from the last quarter but an increase of 35% from the previous year, with a combined total slaughter of 8.68 million head, the largest since the fourth quarter of 2014.

The stock turn-off ratio (STR) slightly exceeded 11%, indicating a trend towards flock destocking. Live export volumes saw a significant decrease, down 72% from the previous quarter.

In terms of carcass weights, lambs remained stable at 24.4kg, while sheep increased by nearly 2kg to 25.9kg. Lamb production increased by 16% from last year to 160,954 tonnes, and mutton production rose by 30% to 54,189 tonnes.

Domestic lamb consumption increased by 12% from the previous year to 60,544 tonnes, the highest since 2016.

The third quarter of 2023 has been a period of notable change and activity in the Australian cattle and sheep industries.

The trends observed during this period, including shifts in slaughter rates, livestock types, and production and consumption patterns, provide critical insights into the current dynamics and future prospects of these key agricultural sectors.