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Lamb slaughter in 2023 and 2024 is literally off the chart. That is to say, we had to adjust the ‘Y’ scale to accommodate the actual for 2023 and the ongoing forecasts. Here we take a look at Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) latest sheep ‘Industry Projections’.

Massive jumps in sheep and lamb slaughter in 2023 have well and truly stalled sheep flock growth, with MLA calling 2023 peak flock, and 2024 peak supply, with declines to come.

The official Australia Bureau of Statistics lamb and sheep slaughter figures were also released recently. Figure 1 shows a strong 16% year on year increase in lamb slaughter in 2023, hitting a new record of 24.91 million head. Figure 1 also shows that the hot start to 2024 has MLA forecasting a new record, with 26.1 million head.

Lamb supply is forecast to remain at levels stronger than any time prior to 2023 for the next three years, but supply is expected to tighten with declines in the flock.

Sheep slaughter hit a nine year high in 2023. The increase of 47% was a huge jump, with strong supplies of older sheep predicated by the increase in the flock over the past two years.  Figure 2 shows MLA are forecasting sheep slaughter above 10 million head again in 2024.  It has been 10 years since we last saw 10 million head slaughtered, with declines to come in 2025 and 2026. 

Figure 3 shows that flock is expected to decline in 2024, as the increase in turnoff hits. Further declines are expected in 2025 before steadying in 2026. Forecasting the flock out that far is fraught, as so much depends on seasonal conditions.

The massive jump in forecast lamb slaughter, while flock forecasts have been forecast lower is interesting. In their projections MLA have noted an increase in productivity on lamb production, which suggests marking rates are stronger. This is likely due to an increase in the meat breed proportion of the flock, a decline in the number of wethers and improvement in marking rates in general. 

What does it mean?

Most growers would be happy with working through peak sheep and lamb supply at current prices.  Any decline in supply should be met with stronger prices, with the export demand weakness hopefully behind us.

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Key Points

  • MLA’s sheep and lamb industry projections were released last week.
  • The heavy supply of 2023 is expected to continue into 2024.
  • A smaller flock is forecast to see lamb and sheep supply ease in coming years.

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Data sources: MLA, ABS, Mecardo

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