AUSTRALIA recorded its lowest monthly national slaughter in more than eight years in May this year and the number of sheep processed halved compared to a year ago.
This contributed to a decline in sheep meat production, although it was offset by a lift in carcase weights compared to a year ago.
Meat & Livestock Australia said the latest ABS data for May reported national lamb slaughter at 1.45 million head, 33 percent 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 40pc from May 2019 to 158,250 head.
New South Wales and Victoria slaughter reported year-on-year declines of 18pc and 35pc 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, MLA said.
In line with reduced slaughter levels, national lamb production for May sat 30pc below year-ago levels at 36,075 tonnes carcase weight. However, MLA said carcase weights 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.
Sheep slaughter in May was half that of a year ago
MLA said 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, MLA said South Australia had the largest reduction, back 66pc to 20,020 head. The mutton kills in New South Wales and Victoria eased 45pc and 63pc to 116,400 and 93,770 head respectively, MLA said.
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, MLA said.
The steep decline in slaughter resulted in national sheep production falling 46pc year-on-year to 8,161 tonnes cwt in May, with significant declines recorded across all states.
MLA said subdued sheep meat production has placed downward pressure on exports, with sheep meat 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.