Processing cuts hurt slaughter levels

31 Aug, 2016 06:50 AM

SEVERE processing capacity cuts in the north has resulted in a dramatic decline in cattle processing figures this month, while the current prices of small stock are luring numbers out of the southern system early.

Wet weather and supply difficulties has caused major closure of processing shifts at some of the nation’s major plants, including Teys Cargill and JBS sites, which has resulted in the beef processing capacity plummet across the country.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s eastern states kill report reveals Queensland is hardest hit by the shift cutbacks, with cattle processing back to the lowest level in nearly two decades this month.

Queensland processed 35,000 less cattle in the past fortnight, compared to the same fortnight last year, at nearly 120,000.

The lack of sheep numbers across the north has seen Queenland’s lamb kill decline to less than 100 head per week, with only 373 head killed for the month compared to 23,721 last year.

Meanwhile South Australia has increased their processing of lambs by 24pc in this same period, as well as NSW which boosted lamb kill by 22pc to 455,086 this month.

While wet weather and supply difficulty has cut Victoria’s lamb slaughter numbers by 18pc this month, it remains the dominant lamb processing state with a kill of 533,410 this month.

“The effect of plant closures in Queensland has pushed stock down into NSW,” MLA market analyst Stephanie Williams said.

“We are expecting a flush of young lambs on the market this spring so it is steady at the moment before that happens.

“Saleyard prices are favourable and the weather conditions are good so some people could hold on to finish their lambs to trade and heavier weights, compared ot last year when we had dry conditions.”

Surging mutton prices in the past quarter has accelerated the turn-off sheep, with SA and Tasmania the only states holding a positive processing trajectory at 20pc and 89pc respectively.

In line with their dismal lamb numbers, Queensland processed 99pc less sheep last week, while NSW was back 13pc and Victoria down 26pc.

“So many sheep and lambs have gone through the system already and this time of the year the focus has shifted to getting the young lambs to market,” Ms Williams said.

“The winter period cleans out a lot of (surplus) sheep – it is a definitely a favourable time to sell any sort of stock.”

A spasmodic offload of calves in Victoria a fortnight ago increased processing by 77pc week-on-week to 9030, a rise of 18pc on last year, although corrected by falling 26pc last week. This is consistent with the eastern states which recorded a fall of 31pc and 43pc in Queensland and NSW, respectively.

Ms Williams said the calve were thinly reported so there was volatility in the figures,

Victoria processed the highest volume of goats last week, up 226pc on last year, to 11,219, in front of Queensland who dropped 43pc to 9472 and NSW which rose 98pc to 6310 and SA at 3366.

“In the winter months it has been hard to harvest goats but now there has been drier weather, we’re seeing more get to market,” Ms Williams said.

“Prices have found a level, which is a record level, that has been an incentive to continue to get the choppers in the air and get the goats to market.”​

Annabelle Cleeland

Annabelle Cleeland

is the national sheep and wool writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media


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