Australian lamb production is set to break a new record in 2024, beating the previous year’s record achieved in 2023.

It is projected that lamb production will reach 621,000t in 2024, a 9% or 54,000t increase compared to 2023 figures.

This is according to the latest sheep industry projections from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

MLA has forecasted that next year, lamb production is set to ease to 587,000t and then rise in 2026 by 19,000t to 606,000t due to improved carcase weights.

It is expected that mutton production will be the largest since 2006, set to produce 254,000t in 2024 up by 3.14% on 2023 volumes.

Australian sheep flock

After three years of consecutive growth, the Australian sheep flock is set to decrease by 2.9% to 76,500,000 head in 2024, according to the MLA.

The shift from beneficial weather conditions to average conditions in 2023 was a factor in a 46.7% lift to sheep slaughter, as it caused more sheep to be culled.

According to Stephen Bignell at MLA, the reduction in numbers will mostly be limited to older, unproductive ewes.

Therefore, this year’s lamb cohort is expected to remain solid, but slightly smaller, than previous years.

Bignell said: “The current resilience of the sheep flock means that high lamb slaughter will have a less intense impact on the national flock size than in previous maintenance periods.

“Meaning that there will be a decrease in overall flock numbers, but not as dramatic as in comparative years.

“After 2024, the flock is expected to stabilise and remain above the ten-year average,” Bignell added.

Slaughter and production are projected to peak in 2024, causing record supply of Australian sheepmeat into the global market.

This comes after Australia produced the most lamb on record in the calendar year 2023, with 599,461t of lamb being produced in 2023, putting it 11.6% higher than 2022, which was another record year.

MLA expects that high Australian production will increase globally traded sheepmeat volumes.

“Economic resilience in the United States and emerging markets will drive demand for lamb, while the outlook for consumer demand in China remains uncertain,” Bignell said.

“Regardless, a shortage of competitor proteins will encourage imports of sheepmeat in high protein consumption markets,” he added.