Meat & Livestock News

Impact of Female Cattle Slaughter Rates on Carcase Weights in 2023


  • Carcase weights for female and male cattle showed significant differences in 2023, influenced by producers’ decisions in a non-drought year.
  • Female slaughter rates fluctuate throughout the year, with a notable increase in Q2 and Q3, leading to a decrease in carcass weights.
  • By the end of 2023, female carcase weights increased, aligning with long-term averages as conditions improved and focus shifted towards maintenance.

In 2023, the dynamics of carcass weights between female and male cattle in Australia underwent notable variations, primarily shaped by the strategic decisions of producers in response to seasonal conditions. Meat & Livestock Australia’s analysis reveals that these decisions were markedly influenced by the absence of drought conditions, leading to a volatile pattern in female slaughter rates throughout the year.

The year began with female slaughter rates (FSR) maintaining a low profile at 42.4%, alongside historically high female carcass weights of 284 kg/head, a continuation of the rebuilding phase from 2022. 

However, the anticipation of a dry season and subsequent low spring rainfall prompted a strategic shift among producers towards prioritising productivity and reducing female breeding stock. This adjustment saw FSR jump to 48% in the second quarter, driven by a 27% increase in female slaughter and resulting in a dip in carcass weights to 279 kg/head.

The trend of elevated female slaughter persisted into the third quarter, with FSR climbing to 49%. This period saw a 12% rise in female slaughter and a 9% increase in production, further reducing carcass weights to 269 kg/head.

This mid-year surge in FSR highlighted a distinct reaction between the male and female segments of the herd, with male cattle slaughter, production, and carcass weights exhibiting less volatility, indicating a strategic focus on fattening steers and bullocks over breeding.

By the fourth quarter of 2023, the industry witnessed a return to a more maintenance-focused approach. Both female and male cattle slaughter rates declined, with female slaughter decreasing more rapidly. This adjustment brought the FSR down to 46.9%, slightly below the long-term average of 47%.

Consequently, cattle carcass weights (excluding calves) saw a 2% increase in the last quarter to 313kg/head. Female carcass weights experienced a 4% uplift, surpassing the five-year average to reach 271 kg/head, attributed to decreased female and low-productivity turn-off as conditions ameliorated and prices improved.

These fluctuations underscore the nuanced impact of seasonal conditions, production strategies, and slaughter rates on carcass weights. The data from 2023 illustrates the agricultural sector’s adaptability in response to environmental and market forces, highlighting the importance of strategic decision-making in maintaining sustainable production levels and optimising carcass weights amidst varying conditions.