Lamb flock decline like cattle herd

Zach RelphCountryman
The national flock is forecast to drop to figures not experienced since 2012.
Camera IconThe national flock is forecast to drop to figures not experienced since 2012. Credit: Countryman, Bob Garnant

Australia’s lamb flock is following in the footsteps of the nation’s declining cattle herd and is poised to fall to its lowest level in seven years, according to updated industry predictions.

The national flock is forecast to drop to figures not experienced since 2012, with Meat and Livestock Australia flagging stocks will decline by 3.7 per cent to 65.3 million head this year.

It comes after MLA tipped the country’s cattle herd would reduce by 3.8 per cent to 26.2 million head by June 30 in an industry report released last month.

MLA market intelligence manager Scott Tolmie cited a reduced breeding flock and persistent lack of rainfall would cause the below-average lambing rates experienced in 2018 to continue.

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Mr Tolmie said lamb producers desperately needed consistent rainfall to alleviate some high feed cost pressures.

“Unfortunately, the current Bureau of Meteorology three-month outlook does not point to an immediate reprieve from the current hot and dry conditions,” he said.

“Considering the substantial moisture deficiencies apparent in many regions, particularly NSW, any improvement in conditions would require consistent above-average rainfall over the coming months.”

The report also predicted lamb slaughter to decline 7 per cent this year to 21.2 million head, while sheep slaughter is touted to be down 16 per cent to 8 million head.

However, Mecardo analyst Angus Brown said lamb slaughter was tipped to rebound in 2020-22 after emerging from this year’s downturn.

“The biggest deficit is likely to be in May, where last year a record number of lambs was slaughtered,” he said.

“Our chart suggests there could be 22 per cent fewer lambs slaughtered in May. With slaughter running strong for 2019 to date, there will have to be a significant decline in lamb supply at some stage over the coming months.

“The timing of the supply drop is likely to be rainfall-dependent.”

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