Western Australian Beef Commentary

Slaughter & beef production


The growth in domestic cattle slaughter has been driven by increased slaughter of female cattle (Figure 4). Since 2017 there has been an increase of 51% in the slaughter of female cattle from 178 000 to 269 000 head. On the other hand, male cattle slaughter has declined 14% from 195 000 to 169 000 in 2020. This is generally a sign of producers reducing herd sizes often in response to adverse seasonal conditions or markets, however as illustrated in Figure 1 the WA beef herd has been steady or slightly increasing in size over this time, especially the female component. The ability to turn-off more female cattle without impacting the herd size may be reflective of improved herd fertility and calf survival.

The number of male cattle slaughtered has changed from 189 000 in 2011 to 168 500 in 2020. Female slaughter has moved from 226 200 to 268 700.
Figure 4 The number of male and female cattle slaughtered in WA (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

Beef & veal production

In line with slaughter numbers, the volume of WA beef and veal produced has also increased significantly in recent years (Figure 5). There has been an 11% increase in beef production since 2017 and a 128% increase in veal production, however this was from a very low base. In 2020 beef production totalled 115 000 tonnes- the 2nd highest it has been over the last decade.

WA beef production has increased from 106 000 tonnes in 2011 to 115 000 tonnes in 2020. Veal production has declined from 110 tonnes to 107 tonnes.
Figure 5 WA beef and veal production in tonnes (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

Carcase weights

As illustrated in Figure 6, the carcase weight of both Australian and WA cattle slaughtered domestically has notably increased over the last 48 years. In 1972 the average carcase weight of WA cattle was 195 kg/hd, however this has increased to 262 kg/hd in 2020, an increase of 34%. At the same time, nationally there has been an increase of 42% in carcase weights from 207 kg/hd to 294 kg/hd.

Despite the long term increase there has been a slight decline in WA carcase weights over the last couple of years. The carcase weight for WA adult cattle in 2020 was 262kg on average, down slightly from 276kg in 2017, which was the highest on record. The lower carcase weights in 2020 may have been due to producers selling early in response to dry conditions across much of the state in the first half of the year.

There has been an increase in the carcase weight of both WA and Australian cattle since 1972 from 193 kg to 262 kg for WA and 207 kg to 294 kg for AU.
Figure 6 Changes in carcase weight of Australian and WA cattle (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)