Cattle slaughter rate jumps as farmers battle drought

AUSTRALIA - CATTLE are being slaughtered at rates not seen for 30 years, with almost three-quarters of a million killed a month as farmers battle the drought.
calendar icon 12 January 2007
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Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday reveal a rise in the number of cattle slaughtered for the fifth consecutive month, reaching 706,000 for November.

On some measures, the figures are reaching records not seen since the late 1970s, when farmers were reeling from a crash in the international beef price.

Industry insiders said they expected the next set of figures, which will include numbers for slaughters in December, to be even worse, and for pig and poultry numbers to be hit soon by high grain prices.

According to the ABS trend estimates, the number of cattle slaughtered in November rose by nearly 100,000 compared with the same month in 2005.

Bull slaughters increased from 342,400 in November 2005 to 384,800 a year later, while sheep slaughter numbers are higher than at any point since 2002.

Sheep slaughters have been above 1 million a month since June last year, rising to nearly 1.3million in November.

The chief market analyst at Meat and Livestock Australia, Peter Weeks, said the number of slaughtered cattle was the highest since 1978 - when the global beef price crash that hit Australian farmers was made worse as Europe, the US and Japan tried to protect their markets.

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