Western Australian Beef Commentary

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. 

Time series demonstrating the trend between 2005 and 2015 of WA cattle slaughter and live exports. In 2005 slaughter was 487 000. It rose to 507 000 in 2008 then fell to 380 000 in 2012. It reached 416 500 in 2015. Live export was 263 000 in 2005. It rose
Figure 2 WA cattle turn off. Live export data for 2015 excludes October data (Based on data from ABS, analysed by DAFWA)[1] [1]2015*- WA live export data does not include October data due to confidentiality issues

Cattle slaughter

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.

In 2005 WA cattle slaughter was 482 000 head. It fell to 435 000 in 2006 before climbing to 502 000 in 2008. Since then it has fallen to 379 000 in 2012 before recovering to 417 000 in 2015.  Australian cattle slaughter was 7.6 million in 2005. It remaine
Figure 3 Annual cattle slaughter for Australia (Left Hand Side (LHS)) and WA (Right Hand Side (RHS)) excluding calves (Based on data from ABS, analysed by DAFWA)

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. 

In 2005 WA female cattle slaughter was 270 000 head. It fell to 242 000 in 2006 then rose to 307 000 in 2010. Since then it has fallen to 192 000 in 2012 and is 205 000 in 2015.  In 2005 male cattle slaughter was 213 000. It fell to 193 000 in 2006 before
Figure 4 WA cattle slaughter by animal type (Based on data from ABS, analysed by DAFWA)

Beef production

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.

WA beef production has been declining over the last 10 years. In 2005 it was 126 million kg. It rose to 126.4 million kg in 2008 then fell to 986 000 in 2012. In 2015 it was 1.1 million kg.  Australian beef production has been increasing over time. In 200
Figure 5 Volume of beef produced (million kilogram carcase equivalent weight) by Australia (LHS) and WA (RHS) (Based on data from ABS, analysed by DAFWA)

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.

The majority of WA beef is consumed on the domestic market. In 2005 65% of beef was consumed domestically. This fell to 63% in 2008 before rising to 75% in 2012. It has since fallen to 60% in 2015. The proprtion exported has increased in recent years. In
Figure 6 Western Australian beef consumption by market (Based on ABS data, analysed by DAFWA)