Meat & Livestock News

Australia Surpasses New Zealand in Lamb Production, Marking a Shift in Global Agriculture

A farm of trimmed white and brown sheep and rams

Recent trends in the global sheepmeat industry have seen a significant shift, with Australian lamb production now outstripping that of New Zealand. This change marks a reversal of the long-standing dynamic where New Zealand traditionally led in lamb slaughter volumes.

Slaughter Trends and Agricultural Shifts

Since September 2022, the gap between Australian and New Zealand lamb slaughter volumes has widened notably.

Australian lamb slaughter has increased by 39%, while New Zealand’s volumes have slightly decreased by 1%. This shift is attributed to changes in agricultural land use and increased productivity in Australia.

Between 2007 and 2014, New Zealand’s lamb slaughter volumes experienced a decline, followed by a steady downward trend. This change reflects a broader shift in the country’s agricultural practices, with a 25% decrease in lamb slaughter paralleled by a 27% increase in the dairy cattle herd.

The focus on milk solids production has become a significant part of New Zealand’s agricultural exports.

In contrast, Australian lamb slaughter volumes rose by 12% from 5,327,800 in June 2013 to 6,058,700 in June 2023. This increase is indicative of more efficient production practices and advancements in the genetic composition of the Australian lamb flock.

Carcase Weights and Efficiency

Australian lamb carcass weights have also seen a more substantial increase compared to New Zealand. Between 2013 and 2023, New Zealand sheep carcass weights increased by 10% to 19.5kg per head, while Australian weights rose by 14% to 24.6kg per head. This pronounced difference suggests that Australian lamb production is considerably more efficient.

Export Dynamics

Both New Zealand and Australia are leading global sheepmeat exporters, accounting for over 70% of the global trade.

Australia dominates exports to the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions, which prefer larger carcase weight lamb products. Conversely, New Zealand has historically had an advantage in exporting to the United Kingdom and the European Union, markets that traditionally favour smaller and leaner carcase weights.

Future Outlook

As Australian lamb production reaches record levels, its exports have also been rising to unprecedented highs. With New Zealand’s lower slaughter rates resulting in reduced global lamb supply, Australia faces an opportunity to capitalise on the rising global demand for lamb.

This situation presents a strategic advantage for Australia in the international market.