Lamb slaughter is up as producers enter a destocking phase, with the change reflected in latest livestock products data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Lamb slaughter in the September 2023 quarter increased 8. per cent to 6.6 million head and lamb meat production increased 7.7pc to 160,954 tonnes.
Sheep slaughter however dropped by 18.1pc to 2.1 million head, with mutton production back 11.8pc to 54,189 tonnes, with the decrease largely due to elevated lamb slaughter reducing sheep processing capacity.
Meat & Livestock Australia market information manager Stephen Bignell said the latest ABS numbers were reflective of the drier conditions experienced in many parts of Australia over winter.
"For a spring quarter we're tracking about 10pc higher in terms of [lamb] production, which is a record level," he said.
"We had a big lamb cohort and what it means is that people are just obviously not wanting to keep hold of those lambs for either wool production or for breeding ewes.
"I imagine there were more ewe lambs in that turn off than historically we would have seen.
"The high lamb slaughter does mean there's more meat... as the biggest sheep meat exporter in the world when Australia produces more lamb there's more lamb on the global market so that obviously does have an impact on price too."
Mr Bignell there was a sheep turn off ratio of more than 11pc, indicating that the industry was undergoing a destocking period.
"In the south it's probably less weather-related and tied to price and obviously the flock is at the highest its been since 2007, so it's the number of animals in the paddock too," he said.
Mr Bignell said the gross value of sheep and lambs decreased by 18.5pc to $956.6 million, the first time quartlerly sheep and lamb producer receipts have dropped below $1 billion in value since the ABS began recording them in 2019.
Mr Bignell said while mutton production was down for the quarter, it remained significantly up on last year.
"Processors are making decisions with the lamb cohort as big as it is and producers have the supply of lamb they're looking to turn off, so they've just moved production from mutton to lamb," he said.
It comes as national sheep meat indicators trend slightly upwards, with heavy lamb up 18c to 504c and trade lamb up 10c to 465c.
Mutton has strengthened to 130c after falling below $1 in early October.
National Livestock Reporting Service market reports continue to note that prices for well-finished lambs regardless of age continue to hold firmer than average, due to varied quality at saleyards.
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