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, underpinned by substantial drops in marking rates and the culling of large numbers of ewes and ewe lambs.
The national flock is estimated to have declined by over 4 million head, or 6.1%, to mid-2018 and is forecast to experience a further decline of 3.7% by mid-2019 to 65.3 million head, as many producers are forced to continue destocking as they wait for a turnaround in the weather.
The significantly reduced breeding flock and widespread rainfall decencies, suggest fewer joinings than usual and a continuation of below-average lambing rates experienced in 2018.
MLA’s Market Intelligence Manager, Scott Tolmie, said many producers will be hoping for some consistent rainfall this year to help alleviate some of the pressures associated with high feed costs.
“Unfortunately, the current Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) three-month outlook does not point to an immediate reprieve from the current hot and dry conditions,” Mr Tolmie said.
“Considering the substantial moisture deficiencies apparent in many regions, particularly New South Wales, any improvement in conditions would require consistent above-average rainfall over the coming months.”
Mr Tolmie said both sheep and lamb carcase weights were impacted by the tough conditions and 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,” Mr Tolmie said.
“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.”