Australian beef production forecast to rise in 2024 - GAIN

Beef production forecast to increase 4%
calendar icon 12 February 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

Australian beef production is forecast to increase by 4% in 2024 to 2.25 million metric tons (MMT) Carcass Weight Equivalent (CWE) relative to the upward revised 2023 estimate of 2.17 MMT(CWE), according to a recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report. If the forecast is realised, it would be the sixth highest production on record. 

Of particular importance to note is that the previous five peak production results over the last decade are all largely associated with de-stocking due to drought conditions. The forecast 4% increase in beef production correlates with an expected 5% increase in the cattle slaughter volume. 

But slaughter weights are expected to decline slightly with an anticipated lower proportion of total slaughter from feedlot cattle, higher rate of female slaughter and also an increase in calf slaughter numbers.

For 2024 there is an expectation that overall slaughter numbers will increase, but the proportion of feedlot cattle will decrease marginally. This is despite number of feedlot cattle to continue to rise, but slaughter of grass-fed animals is expected to increase by a little more. 

Based on past trends, the average carcass weight for adult cattle slaughtered (excludes calves) is expected to decline in the forecast year to 314 kg/head, compared to an estimated near 317 kg/head for 2023. 

Typically, grass-fed finished cattle on average have lower slaughter weights than cattle finished in feedlots.

Dry conditions reducing pasture growth and the stage of the national herd rebuild, which influence the proportion of female slaughter numbers, are impacting on the forecast reduction in average carcass weight (excluding calves) for 2024. 

As previously mentioned, the below average rainfalls in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales so far in 2023 along with the forecast of below average rainfall in the coming months is likely to have an impact on pasture production particularly in the more southern temperate climate regions which are dependent upon good spring rainfalls. If the rainfall forecast prevails, lower pasture production will negatively impact weight gains of cattle that farmers plan to send for processing in 2024.

Female slaughter weights are on average lower than that of males, and the increasing proportion of female slaughter evident in the first half of 2023 is expected to continue its trend towards the long-term average for the remainder of 2023 and in 2024. The anticipated higher female slaughter rate is expected to contribute to the expected lower average carcass weight forecast for 2024. 

Additionally, the 5% increase in calf slaughter compared to the 4% increase in the overall slaughter number for the forecast year is influencing the lower rate of beef production increase relative to the growth in overall cattle slaughter numbers.

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