Weekly kill: Carcase weight decline seen in industry stats

Beef Central, 09/10/2013


Rates of beef kill across Eastern Australian states eased a little last week, after a surprisingly high tally the week before.

The National Livestock Reporting Service weekly report for the seven days ended Friday showed an eastern states kill of 151,159 head, a three percent decline on the previous week.

The two largest slaughter states of Queensland and NSW led the decline, easing 4pc and 5pc respectively. Queensland registered a kill of 77,356 head, while the NSW tally reached 36,361 head.

South Australia also fell sharply, back 9pc to 8127 head, while Tasmania softened by 2pc to kill 3924 head for the week.

The only state to record a rise was Victoria, now entering the normal seasonal surge in its annual slaughter cycle, where numbers were up 5pc to 25,391 head.    

Southeast Queensland processor grids have been remarkably stable over the past six weeks, with no significant changes to grids reported again last week by the big three processors.

Best money we could find in current SEQ grids this week was 330c for milk and two-tooth grassfed steer, 325c for four-teeth, 315c for six-tooth and 305c for full-mouth ox. Best SEQ heavy cow grids this week are 285c, but falling away rapidly for lighter weights, while MSA grass steer has held up well at 350c/kg this week.  

The current week’s kill performance to be recorded next Monday will inevitably show a big dip in rates of kill, because of Monday’s Labour Day holiday celebrated in most states, including the largest processing centres of Queensland and NSW.


Slaughter weights under pressure

For a change of pace in this weekly slaughter report, we thought we’d focus on some other impacts of the dry year on slaughter performance.

Processor contacts have consistently remarked recently on the decline in average slaughter weights evident in grassfed cattle as the prolonged drought conditions continue to encroach across larger areas of northern and eastern Australia.

A number of large Queensland plants suggest their cow and steer weights are now back at least 10-15kg liveweight on this time last year, in places much more.

National data produced by Meat & Livestock Australia this week supports the view that carcase weights are well back on year-earlier figures, and may be having an effect on the amount of boneless beef being produced.

Based on ABS/MLA calculations, MLA has national beef carcase weights for the 12 months ended June 30 (by which time the drought impact was gaining real momentum) at 282.4kg.

That’s back about 6kg off the previous 2011-12 year’s record-high average weight of 288kg, but surprisingly, about 1kg better than the year before that 2010-11. That result may have been partly due to the big swing to grass finishing and lesser reliance on feedlots in the 2010-11 year, when seasons turned for the better, and the much heavier use of feedlots as a drought mitigation tool this year.

Because the most recent 288kg carcase weight figure reflects kills only up to June 30, however, more recent meatworks carcase weights are likely to be considerably lower.

What is clearly evident in the latest MLA statistical analysis is the general upwards progression in carcase weights over the past 20 years – almost in spite of the drought years.

For the five year average ended 2000, for example, carcase weights were only 247kg. For the following five year average (ended 2005) they had risen to 260kg, and further still to 270.7kg for the subsequent five years to 2010.

As expected, the lowest carcase weights recorded in recent years was in the very dry 2008-09 year, when they fell to 269kg, and 2009-10, when conditions were still turning in northern Australia, at 275kg.             


Total beef production

Not surprisingly, given the very high rate of kill during the first six months of this year, and the last six months of 2012, MLA’s statistical summary also shows the 2012-13 year is the highest ever for beef production, logging a figure of 2.206 million tonnes. That was up about 6.4pc on the previous two fiscal years. In contrast, for the five years ended 2000, total annual beef production averaged 1.864 million tonnes, 5.4pc lower than last financial year.

Another indicator of the big kills seen over the past 12 months was the statistics for exports, as a proportion of overall beef production. For 2012-13 the figure reached 66.6pc – exactly two thirds of all beef and veal production – which was easily the highest seen since 2009, when the A$ fell to US60c. For the five years ended 2000, the average was just 62.1pc. 


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