Winter female cattle slaughter rises to highest level in three years

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.

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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.