Higher carcase weights, improved lamb marking rates and less competition from a shrinking New Zealand sheep flock have made for an impressive outlook for Australian lamb producers, according to Meat and Livestock Australia’s 2016 sheep industry projections.
MLA market information manager Ben Thomas said ongoing productivity improvements were contributing to the Australian sheepmeat industry’s growing value.
‘‘Over the past five years lamb marking rates and the ability to produce an early finishing lamb have steadily improved, and this continued in 2015 despite many producers facing unfavourable winter and spring conditions,’’ Mr Thomas said.
‘‘Despite the dry season, average carcase weights increased 1.5 per cent, a trend partially attributed to the change in composition of the sheep and lamb flock.’’
Although the reports predicted a positive outlook despite recent dry weather, some Victorian farmers said the outlook for next year depended on future rainfall.
Violet Town sheep producer Drusilla Green said mother nature had slowed everything down this year and the only way she could see the predictions for the next five years coming true was with improved weather conditions.
‘‘It has to be a better year next year,’’ Ms Green said.
‘‘They are predicting the El Niño will decay and a reasonable to early autumn break.
‘‘We have got to have a reasonable autumn, that means rain in preferably March, but definitely April. We need rain that is consistent.’’
MLA predicts 2016 will see a 3.4 per cent fall in lambs slaughtered due to a reduction in the ewe breeding flock; however, it will be short-lived and is expected to rise again in 2017.
‘‘Even though fewer lambs will be processed next year, the heavier carcase weights will carry production through the next few years,’’ Mr Thomas said.
‘‘Producers are driving this transition, moving from a Merino-based flock in the 1980s to higher yielding meat and composite breeds, and that should further boost carcase weights in the future.’’
Demand for Australian lamb in 2016 will continue to be heavily influenced by international customers, with the Australian dollar tipped to hover below the US70¢ mark, which will assist trade and Australian lamb prices considerably.
Exports are forecast to be the third highest on record next year at 230000tonne, accounting for 55 per cent of all lamb production.
Mr Thomas said overall the industry appeared to be in a ‘‘very favourable’’ position.