Sheep notes

Domestic processing/slaughter

The largest segment of total-turn-off is that of domestic processing or slaughter. Total slaughter reached 3.8m in 2022 of which 69% were lambs and 31% were adult sheep.

Since 2012 there has been strong growth in the number of lambs slaughtered. In 2012 lamb slaughter totalled 1.6m head but increased to just over 3.0m in 2016, the highest on record. During calendar year 2022 it reached 2.6m, short of the record but a 2% increase YOY.

Sheep slaughter has been relatively steady over the last 10 years but is historically low when compared to figures seen prior to 2009. This is because export markets have become increasingly lamb orientated and the WA flock declined in numbers resulting in less adult sheep available for turn-off. In 2022 sheep slaughter totalled 1.2m head.

The highest total slaughter reached in WA was in 1976 when 4.5m adult sheep and 1.9m lambs were slaughtered totalling 6.4m head.

sheep and lamb slaughter between 2010 and 2022
WA sheep and lamb slaughter (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

The below chart illustrates the seasonal nature of sheep slaughter in WA with the busiest time being during spring. July is the quietest month during which many or the local processors have 1-3 week shutdowns in order to carry out maintenance.

Monthly sheep slaughter from 2018 to June 2023
Monthly sheep slaughter 2018 - June 2023 in WA (Based on MLA data, DPIRD analysis)

Lamb slaughter isn’t quite as seasonal as sheep slaughter and has become even less so in the last two years. Peak times are generally in spring from September to December, and in autumn between March and May when feed is in short supply.

monthly lamb slaughter between 2018 and June 2023
Monthly lamb slaughter 2018 - June 2023 in WA (Based on MLA data, DPIRD analysis)