Meat & Livestock News

Optimistic Projections for Australia’s Cattle and Sheep Industries in 2024

TL;DR: The latest Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) projections offer a robust outlook for the cattle and sheep sectors in 2024, with cattle slaughter and beef production expected to hit significant highs and the sheep industry also set for record-breaking lamb slaughter and production figures. Despite slight decreases in herd and flock sizes, overall production levels are anticipated to increase, underpinned by favourable climate predictions and strong market dynamics.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) semi-annual industry projections paint a promising picture for the cattle and sheep sectors in 2024. Despite facing minor contractions in herd and flock numbers, both sectors are poised for strong production performance, thanks to favourable climatic conditions and sustained market demand.

For the cattle industry, the national herd size is marginally down to 28.6 million head, reflecting a slight adjustment of less than 1% from the previous year. This reduction is attributed to anticipation of drier conditions. However, the sector is expected to witness a remarkable increase in slaughter rates, with projections of reaching 7.9 million head in 2024, the highest since 2019.

This upsurge in slaughter activity is set to drive beef production to its third-largest volume ever at 2.5 million tonnes, marking a substantial increase of 10.8% compared to 2023. Despite this growth, carcass weights are forecasted to dip slightly over the next two years, stabilising at 312kg in 2024 after peaking at 320kg in 2022.

The sheep industry also shows strong growth potential, with the flock forecasted to reach 76.5 million head, a decrease of 2.9%. Nonetheless, the industry is not expected to undergo significant liquidation, maintaining levels well above the 10-year average. A historic high is projected for lamb slaughter in 2024, estimated at 26.1 million head.

Consequently, lamb production is anticipated to surpass previous records, aiming for 621,000 tonnes, with mutton production reaching its zenith since 2006. Carcase weights for lamb are expected to slightly reduce by 0.3kg, aligning closely with the preferred domestic production weight of 24 kg cwt.

These projections underscore the resilience and potential for growth within Australia’s cattle and sheep sectors. The outlook remains buoyant, supported by strategic industry insights and favourable environmental forecasts, including the potential impacts of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on climatic conditions.

As these industries navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead, the MLA projections serve as a valuable resource for stakeholders, offering a detailed analysis of trends and expectations for the coming year.