Slaughter numbers expected to bounce back towards record highs after Easter break

11 April 2024

Record slaughter figures heading into the Easter break, coupled with widespread rain and subsequent increased restocker competition, bodes well for livestock prices. Pic: AgriShots

An article by  Natasha Lobban

Processor activity has dipped from the record highs experienced before the short Easter weeks, but a strong interest from processors in a big yarding week bodes well for the continued high trajectory for slaughter figures. 

Two weeks ago, the National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) reported slaughter had reached record levels.  

Combined sheep and lamb slaughter surged to reach 687,772 head, marking the largest weekly total on record.  

Victoria recorded its highest individual slaughter numbers on record. Individually, lamb slaughter tipped half a million for the first time ever, with 506,443 animals processed.  

Additionally, during this week, cattle slaughter was the largest it had been since May 2020 at 70,961 head over the week. 

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Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) Senior Market Information Analyst Erin Lukey was not surprised that there was a high supply of lamb ready for processing. 

“Results from the MLA Sheep Producer Intentions survey PULSE wave found that 40% of producers sold fewer lambs than expected, citing prices and weather as the primary reasons, meaning we are looking into a high production start to the year,” she said. 

“It is positive that processers are currently keeping up with this supply.  

“Since these record numbers we have had two short processing weeks due to the long weekend, dropping processor throughput.  

“It is normal to see significant dips in slaughter numbers over long weekend periods due to the reduced shifts in plants.” 

Miss Lukey reported there was a 23% reduction in cattle slaughter across the first short week.  

“This is a slighter ease than last year where numbers dipped by 28% during the easter break,” she said. 

The most recent slaughter figures available show that cattle slaughter dipped again in another short processing week, with slaughter numbers falling 6,465 head to 99,230.  

Miss Lukey said it was the first time the figure has been under six figures since January of this year. 

Lamb slaughter numbers eased by 19% over the Easter break, where last year the break caused only an 11% hit to production. 

“The combined sheep and lamb slaughter lifted slightly week on week by 9,481 head to 556,764 despite the short processing week,” she said. 

“This was driven by the slight increase in lamb slaughter to 421,679 head over the short week, with sheep slaughter easing to 145,086.” 

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The latest on sheep and lamb 

Miss Lukey reported that sheep and lamb yardings skyrocketed by 82% to 367,143 head during to week until Thursday at 4pm. 

Lamb yardings were up 63% to 249,468 head and sheep yardings were up 141% to 117,927 head. 

“This significant lift is expected after the two short operating Easter long weekend weeks. Though we haven’t seen this throughput since February this year,” she said. 

“Market reports indicate good interest from processors in sheep over the week.  

“Wetter weather across the previous weeks have also lifted restocker competition.” 


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