Sheepmeat at historically high prices

By Country News

Strong demand, limited international competition and a forecast drop in sheep and lamb supply is expected to see prices remain at historically high levels, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s 2020 Sheep Industry Projections.

MLA senior market analyst Adam Cheetham said the national flock was forecast to fall 3.5 per cent to 63.7 million head by June 2020.

The drop would represent the lowest national flock since 1904 and a cumulative fall of 12 per cent since June 2017, prior to the latest drought.

“The impact and severity of consecutive drought years will be felt across both sheep and lamb supply in 2020 and for a number of years to come,” Mr Cheetham said.

“Sheep slaughter is forecast to decline 22 per cent to 7.2 million head in 2020 and lamb slaughter is anticipated to decline to 21 million head, which is eight per cent below the pre-drought peak in 2016.

“This reflects the impact of the diminished breeding flock, generally lower marking rates and the expectation of greater retention of ewe lambs on-farm.”

Average national carcase weights are expected to improve, which will help offset the impact of reduced slaughter on sheepmeat production.

“The impact of the decrease in sheep slaughter will not be offset by the expected increase in sheep carcase weights of two per cent to 24.7 kg/head, with mutton production forecast to fall 21 per cent to 178 000 tonnes cwt.”