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Last week Mecardo looked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics cattle slaughter data through the lens of female slaughter, as a pointer to how the herd rebuild is progressing. This week it’s male slaughter, and as outlined in the terrible title pun, it wasn’t as expected.

The rebuilding of the herd always means fewer cows and heifers will be killed. The rate of male slaughter is a little different.  Bulls, bullocks and steers will still come to the market during a rebuild, but usually at heavier weights than during a liquidation.  This is especially the case for cattle coming off grass.

The anomaly in the September cattle slaughter data was the year-on-year fall in bull, bullocks and steer slaughter.  Figure 1 shows that while male cattle slaughter did increase 5.5% on the previous quarter, it was actually down 1.3% on September 2021.

With the cow herd supposedly growing, we should be seeing increased calf crops and with it increased male cattle slaughter.  September was the first quarter since June 2021 to have seen a year on year fall in male cattle slaughter.

The answer might lie in carcase weight and feedlot data.  Figure 2 shows total cattle average carcase weights.  Unfortunately, we can’t split out the weights of male and female cattle.  Cattle carcase weights continued to fall in September, having reached a peak in the March quarter. 

Year on year cattle carcase weights were basically steady.  This can be partly explained by the 8.5% lift in female slaughter, as they are generally marketed at lighter weights.  We can presume male cattle slaughter weights were up.

We can also combine the ALFA/MLA Feedlot survey data with slaughter.  There we find that there were 5% fewer grainfed cattle marketed, but the proportion of cattle slaughtered which were grainfed was up marginally from 44% to 46% (figure 3). 

Falling male cattle slaughter, on the back of record numbers of cattle on feed and grainfed marketings suggest we might have come to the end of the pulling forward of male cattle through feeding. 

Finished cattle supply has been propped up by lotfeeders while cows and heifers have been in short supply, but to do this cattle which might have historically been grassfed have been put through feedlots.

What does it mean?

If you keep pulling cattle forward, there will have to be a lull at some stage, and we might have seen a small one in September.  It coincided nicely with improved supply of female cattle, keeping beef volumes up.  Going forward we expect cattle slaughter to continue to rise as the next crop of calves start coming through.

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Key Points

  • Male cattle slaughter was down year on year against the trend in September.
  • Cattle dragged forward to feed might be responsible for lower male cattle slaughter.
  • After this lull, male cattle slaughter should continue to improve.

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Data sources: ABS, 

Photo Credit: Caitlyn McPhee

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