The latest ABS data for May reported national lamb slaughter at 1.45 million head, 33% below year-ago levels and the lowest monthly slaughter since January 2012.
All states recorded significant reductions from year-ago levels, with South Australia throughput easing 40% from May 2019 to 158,250 head.
New South Wales and Victoria slaughter reported year-on-year declines of 18% and 35% to 387,300 and 710,600 head, respectively.
Despite widespread rainfall earlier in the year, competition in the store market between restockers and processors remains robust, pressuring the availability of finished lambs.
In line with reduced slaughter levels, national lamb production for May sat 30% below year-ago levels at 36,075 tonnes carcase weight (cwt).
Carcase weights, on the other hand, continue to be buoyed by lot fed lambs entering the market at a higher weight bracket. In May, national lamb carcase weights averaged 24.9kg/head, 1.2kg higher year-on-year.
National sheep slaughter halved from year-ago levels to 325,900 head in May, the lowest national throughput since July 2016.
While significant declines from year-ago levels were reported across all states, South Australia saw the largest reduction, back 66% to 20,020 head, while New South Wales and Victoria eased 45% and 63% to 116,400 and 93,770 head, respectively.
With the exception of January, national sheep slaughter has been tracking well below 2019 levels so far this year, as increased stock retention and two sizeable turnoff years in 2018 and 2019 limits the volume of sheep available for processing.
The steep decline in slaughter resulted in national sheep production falling 46% year-on-year to 8,161 tonnes cwt in May, with significant declines recorded across all states.
Subdued sheepmeat production has placed downward pressure on exports, with sheepmeat export quantities tracking considerably below 2019 levels. National sheep carcase weights averaged 25kg/head in May, an increase of 1.9kg from year-ago levels.