Intensifying poor conditions across many of Australia’s key sheep production areas have seen a significant upward revision of sheep slaughter forecasts for 2018.
That’s according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s September Sheep Industry Projections update.
Annual lamb slaughter is now projected to be 22.9million head for 2018, up two per cent on 2017, while sheep slaughter is forecast to reach 9.3million head, up 23 per cent on 2017 levels.
MLA’s market intelligence manager Scott Tolmie said it had been a year of extremes so far for the Australian lamb market, with prices soaring into uncharted territory as strong demand meets tightening supply.
‘‘Australian lamb prices have been rising strongly since April, breaking records as they smashed through the 700¢ and 800¢/kg carcase weight marks for the first time,’’ Mr Tolmie said.
‘‘Poor seasonal conditions and high feed costs have led to a waning supply of finished lambs as the year has progressed.
‘‘This, combined with strong international demand, has resulted in fierce competition for a diminishing supply and driven up prices across the board.
‘‘The dry conditions drove increased lamb slaughter for the first half of the year, spiking in the second quarter of 2018 as conditions worsened and producers looked to de-stock.’’
This peaked in June with the highest month of lamb slaughter on record.
‘‘Lamb slaughter has fallen in recent months due to the delay in new-season lambs entering the market,’’ Mr Tolmie said.
‘‘With no indication of improved seasonal conditions in the short-term, reports suggest there will be greater numbers of lightweight, unfinished new-season lambs coming onto the market this year, as many producers in drought-stricken NSW and northern Victoria face challenging feed conditions.’’
Mr Tolmie said while strong lamb and mutton prices had been a motivating factor to maintain or build flock numbers, the lack of rain across much of Australia had put a lot of pressure on producers to de-stock or supplementary feed.
He said the ongoing dry conditions had also placed downward pressure on carcase weights, with the national average lamb carcase weight for 2018 forecast to be two per cent lower than 2017 and the average sheep carcase weight down eight per cent, at 23kg.