Australian livestock farmers have started destocking in response to worsening dry conditions, according to new statistics.
The latest livestock products data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that farmers are starting killing capital stock, but Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) said the extent of the liquidation will depend on the weather in the coming months.
MLA’s market information manager, Stephen Bignell, said the ABS data shows farmers in many parts of Australia are responding to a dry winter and a forecast El Niño summer.
For the past three years Australian farmers have been rebuilding herds and flocks, but as conditions have dried the number of stock being killed has grown, inundating global meat markets with Australian lamb in particular.
Data for the September quarter shows a 5.7% increase in Australian red meat production, with the cattle slaughter increasing 10.5% to 1.9 million head and overall beef production up 8.3% to 589,406 tonnes.
Lamb slaughter over that same period increased 8.7% to 6.6 million head and lamb meat production increased 7.7% to 160,954t.
Bignell said that in contrast, the sheep slaughter decreased 18.1% to 2.1 million head, with mutton production back 11.8% to 54,189t.
That decrease was largely due to the elevated lamb slaughter reducing sheep processing capacity.
“Even though there is an increase in slaughter for cattle and lamb production, the ABS numbers are reflecting lower overall value due to the lower values being experienced at the saleyards for producers,” Bignell said.
“The gross value of cattle and calves slaughter decreased 2.5% to [AU]$3.2 billion [$3.4bn], while sheep and lambs decreased by 18.5% to $956.6 million.
“This is the first time since producer receipts have been recorded that quarterly sheep and lamb receipts were below $1bn in value.”
Bignell said this data shows Australian herds and flocks began destocking in the September quarter.
He said pockets of Australia have been enjoying favourable weather and improved saleyard market conditions since the data was collected, but weather in the coming months will be crucial to whether or not there is a longer trend of destocking.
“We’ve started to see some positive trends in the weather and a solid market response in recent weeks, and a continuation of positive rainfall will further drive that confidence.”
El Niño Watch: Animal welfare tips for hot, dry conditions
In this episode, Phil Duncan reflects on a messy spring as dry spells increase and explains why the chaotic season will shorten the dry season when it comes. Suz and Phil are also joined by special guest Ivan Holloway, a senior veterinarian at VetLife in Timaru. Ivan talks of a benign spring in the South Island, which has been good for dairy cow health in terms of low mastitis rates, good cycling rates etc, but is cautious of what may be building as areas in the South Island are already starting to miss forecast rain. He also provides vital tips on how to keep stock happy and healthy in hot, dry conditions.