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Dry conditions across Australia’s key production regions have driven winter female slaughter to levels not seen since the drought years of 2013–15.
From June to August national female slaughter was up 23 per cent on 2017 figures, at more than 1.1 million head, Meat and Livestock Australia reports.
While winter female slaughter saw a strong year-on-year increase in Queensland, 24 per cent, and NSW, 23 per cent, the sharpest rises were recorded in Victoria 31 per cent, and WA 37 per cent.
August marked the fourth successive month in which the proportion of national female slaughter surpassed 50 per cent of total kills, at 52 per cent.
On a 12-month rolling average basis, the figure has risen to 49 per cent, indicating the continuation of a herd liquidation phase.
In August, male carcase weights rose 4kg year-on-year to 330kg/head, while female weights declined 13kg to 247kg/head.
The drop in female weights, combined with a higher proportion of female slaughter, saw the national average carcase weight for adult cattle fall 10kg year-on-year, to 286kg/head.
August beef production totalled 213,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt), which saw the year-to-date figure surpass 1.5 million tonnes cwt, up 8 per cent year-on-year.
For the month of August this year, national adult cattle slaughter totalled 743,000 head, up 10 per cent on August 2017.
Year-to-date slaughter also sits 10 per cent above 2017 levels, with the increase driven entirely by cows and heifers.
Nationally, year-to-August female slaughter was up 22 per cent on 2017, while male slaughter was down 1 per cent.
Difficult growing conditions resulted in a supply shortage of finished lambs during August.
Nationally, lamb slaughter totalled 1.59 million head for the month, down 19 per cent year-on-year.
Elevated slaughter for the first half of the year pushed year-to-date slaughter to a record 15.4 million head, up 5 per cent year-on-year.
The Woolworths Group, together with its customers, have raised more than $7 million to date for Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale appeal in support of farmers impacted by the drought.
The total includes Woolworths’ initial $1.5m, customer donations made at stores across the group – supermarkets, metro, BWS, Dan Murphy’s and Big W, as well as profits from sales in the fresh departments at Woolworths Supermarkets on the 11th of August.
The money is already being used by Rural Aid to deliver more livestock feed, cover essential household expenses and provide additional counselling support services to farmers in need in rural areas.
Rural Aid CEO Charles Alder said it had been incredible to see the whole nation rally together to help support the strong and resilient Australian farming community during this tough period.
“The funds raised by Woolworths are already starting to help farmers who have reached out to us in urgent need of feed for their livestock, as well help with household expenses,” he said.
“Additionally we’ve been able to increase vital counselling services available for farming families in regional communities, with counsellors coming on board in Broken Hill and Lighting Ridge,” said Alder.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said the group had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from customers and store teams in support of the Australian farming community.
“Our store teams, particularly in regional and rural areas, have continued to go above and beyond to support fundraising efforts because they know it makes a real difference for those impacted in their local community,” he said.
“We are proud to have collectively raised and donated more than $7m for Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale appeal, and we continue to look at ways to support their work above and beyond fundraising,” said Banducci.
Woolworths is also supporting the organisation with resourcing in the areas of logistics and planning.
Alder said moving livestock feed was a huge logistical challenge, but the group were working really hard with industry partners to support this.
“We are grateful to the additional support the Woolworths Group supply chain has been providing to ensure more hay and much needed supplies are getting to our farmers in need, as quickly as possible,” said Alder.