Almost seven million lambs went through Australian factories in the first quarter of 2024, new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show.

This is a 32% increase compared with the same period in 2023.

Throughput is up 3% on quarter four of 2023. Lamb production also reached record volumes, with production up 8% on last quarter and 48% on last year, with 167,000t produced.

Quarter-on-quarter lifts to carcase weights drove the production increase, as producers moved to offload older lambs in preparation for the next season, Meat and Livestock Australia said.

“Additionally, positive rainfall seen over the tail summer months supported finishing for producers across the eastern states. Average carcase weights came in at 24kg, which is equal to the five-year average,” it said.

Sheep kill

“Sheep slaughter lifted, but not beyond the record levels of 2019. A total of 2.785m head was processed across the country, up 4% on last quarter.

“Despite a lift in slaughter, easing carcase weights caused a drop in production, with 69,000t of mutton produced. Carcase weights fell below the five-year average to 25kg. Figures show just an 800g difference in average sheep and lamb carcase weights,” it added.

When combining sheep and lamb statistics, sheepmeat production was up 5% for another record quarter of 236,710t and sheepmeat slaughter of 9,720,600 head achieved the highest combined slaughter figure since December 1987.

Meat and Livestock Australia said that in gross value of livestock, sheep and lamb slaughter produced $1.257bn of value, which equates to an average of $126/head, a sound recovery from the $94/head attained last quarter.