Cattle turn-off and beef production
The vast majority of Western Australian cattle are turned-off through either live exports or domestic slaughter, with a small number being sent interstate. Over the past decade domestic slaughter has been the largest of the three options, as seen below in Figure 2. In 2015, 418 000 cattle were slaughtered by local processors, down slightly from 2014, while 258 000 cattle were exported live (excluding October live export data due to confidentiality issues). During 2014, when a full year of live cattle export data was available, there was 37% fewer cattle exported than slaughtered in WA.
Western Australian cattle slaughter has been on the rise since 2012, following a low of 381 000 head that year (Figure 3). Between 2012 and 2015, cattle slaughter increased 10% to 418 000 head, despite slaughter in 2015 being 1% lower than in 2014.
The trends evident in Australian cattle slaughter have been similar; however the increase has been larger. Slaughter increased 21% between 2012 and 2015, from 8 million to 9.7 million head; however there has been a 2% year on year decrease between 2014 and 2015. These high slaughter rates have largely been due to the ongoing drought in Queensland, the largest cattle-producing state in Australia, as well as strong international demand, and have resulted in a reduced Australian herd size.
Prior to 2012, a much larger proportion of cows and heifers were slaughtered in WA compared to bulls, bullocks and steers. However, as demonstrated in Figure 4 below, the numbers began to converge in recent years. In 2014 the situation was reversed when slightly more male cattle were slaughtered than female cattle (211 000 males and 209 000 females). This difference edged higher during 2015, with 2% more male cattle slaughtered than females (210 000 compared to 205 000). The 33% fall in the number of female cattle slaughtered between 2010 and 2015 is likely contributing to the expansion of the WA herd.
As seen below in Figure 5, the volume of beef produced follows the same pattern as seen for slaughter in Figure 3. Between 2010 and 2012, the volume of beef produced in WA fell by 17%, from 118 million kilograms to 99 million kilograms. Since 2012, the volume of beef produced has increased to 108 million kilograms, an increase of 10%, but is yet to reach the volumes reported prior to 2010.
The majority of WA beef is consumed on the domestic market as seen in Figure 6 (domestic consumption is estimated as total production minus export volume); however the proportion of beef exported has been increasing in recent years. Between 2012 and 2015, the proportion of beef exported has increased from 25% to 40%. When beef production was low in 2012, the proportion of beef consumed on the domestic market was at its highest due to a limited capacity to service overseas markets. However in recent years, due to heightened global demand, the proportion of beef exported has increased.