Australian lamb slaughter is heading for its lowest level in six years
Australian lamb slaughter is forecast to reach its lowest level since 2012 as poor conditions that impacted 2018 are expected to continue to affect sheepmeat supply this year, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) 2019 Sheep Industry Projections.
Lamb slaughter is forecast to decline 7% in 2019 to 21.2 million head, while sheep slaughter is predicted to be down 16%, to 8 million head.
The national flock has already declined by over 4 million head, or 6.1%, to mid-2018 and a further decline of 3.7% is expected to take place mid-2019. Both sheep and lamb carcase weights were impacted by the tough conditions and a high cost of feed in 2018, and this is expected to continue in 2019 with feedstocks depleted and feed demand to remain high until conditions improve. "The average lamb carcase weight is expected to remain around 22.4kg/head in 2019 while the national average sheep carcase weight is expected to stabilise in 2019, at 23.6kg/head. A fall in slaughter and carcase weights is driving the 7% forecast decline in lamb production for 2019 to 475,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt). Mutton production will likely see a steeper drop of 16% to 188,000 tonnes cwt", explains Scott Tolmie, MLA’s Market Intelligence Manager.
Luckily, robust international demand is supporting Australian exports and, in turn, domestic prices. "The expectation for supply, and consequently exports, to decline in both Australia and New Zealand will likely see global competition for sheepmeat intensify in 2019. The conditions that drove strong prices for well-finished stock last year look likely to remain in place in 2019, particularly while conditions remain dry. Sheepmeat supply out of Australia and New Zealand – which account for more than 70% of global trade – has been unable to keep pace with strong global demand, led by China in 2018", added Tolmie.