The first three months of the year has seen the level of Australian lamb slaughter be the “highest on record” according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released its official livestock production and slaughter figures for the first quarter (Q1) of 2024.

The figures cover the quarterly statistics on livestock slaughtered, meat production, and the gross value of livestock slaughtered across the first three months of the year.

Lamb slaughter once again reached record numbers, with just under seven million processed over the quarter.

The exact figure of 6.935 million head is a 3% lift on last quarter’s throughput and 32% above Q1 2023.

Australian lamb production also reached record volumes, up 8% on last quarter and 48% on last year with 167,000t produced.

Quarter-on-quarter lifts to carcase weights drove the production increase as producers moved to offload older lambs in preparation for the next season.

Additionally, positive rainfall seen over the tail summer months supported finishing for producers across the eastern states.

Average carcase weights came in at 24kg, which is equal to the five-year average.

Records were also seen across many states, with Victoria tipping last year’s production record, which despite experiencing a slight ease in slaughter numbers, achieved its second largest slaughter figure on record.

New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA) both had their second highest slaughter, up 18% and 2% respectively, while lamb production in WA saw an impressive 95% jump compared to Q1 2023.

Sheep slaughter lifted, but not beyond the record levels of 2019. A total of 2.785 million head was processed across the country, up 4% on last quarter.

Despite a lift in slaughter, easing carcase weights caused a drop in production, with 69,000t of mutton produced.

Carcase weights fell below the five-year average to 25kg. Figures show just an 800g difference in average sheep and lamb carcase weights.

When combining sheep and lamb statistics, sheepmeat production was up 5% for another record quarter of 236,710t and sheepmeat slaughter of 9,720,600 head, achieved the highest combined slaughter figure since December 1987.

In gross value of livestock, Australian sheep and lamb slaughter produced $1.257 billion of value which equates to an average of $126/head, a recovery from the $94/head attained last quarter.