Meat & Livestock News

Shift in Australian Cattle Market: Carcase Weights Decline Amid High Cow Slaughter

Cow and bulls at cowshed on the farm

The latest livestock production and slaughter statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) offer crucial insights into the current state and future trends of the Australian cattle market.

A key takeaway from the recent data is the noticeable decrease in the average carcase weight of cattle, which has dropped by 6.5 kg to 308.5 kg. This figure, the lowest since early 2020, indicates that drier conditions have led to cattle being turned off at lighter weights.

A closer examination of the data reveals that the change in carcase weights is largely attributed to shifts in slaughter composition rather than a significant alteration in condition or quality. Male carcase weights experienced a modest decline of 2.2 kg but remained above 346 kg.

This weight is significantly higher than historical averages and is comparable to the weights recorded in 2022, which marked an all-time peak.

Factors Influencing Carcass Weight Trends:

The decline in overall carcase weights can be primarily attributed to two factors:

  1. Increased Female Slaughter: There was a more substantial increase in female slaughter compared to male slaughter, leading to a higher percentage of females in the total slaughter count. Since cows and heifers generally weigh less than steers and bulls, this rise in female turnoff naturally reduces the overall average carcase weight.
  1. Decrease in Female Carcase Weights: Female carcase weights fell by 9.5 kg to 269 kg. This decline is unlikely to be a result of deteriorating conditions, as this would have similarly affected male carcase weights. It is more plausible that a higher number of breeding cows, particularly those that are older or underperforming, were turned off. These cows, often not fed before processing, contribute to the lower average carcase weights.

Outlook for the Future:

The ABS data suggests that while the phase of herd rebuilding might have concluded, the quality of cattle being turned off remains high, with steer weights largely stable. Recent rainfall across the East Coast is expected to improve grass cover during the summer, which could lead to stabilisation or a lesser decline in carcase weights in the fourth quarter data.

This analysis provides a comprehensive understanding of the current trends in the Australian cattle market, highlighting the factors influencing carcase weights and offering a perspective on future developments.