The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework defines sustainability as the production of beef in a manner that is socially, environmentally and economically responsible by caring for natural resources, people and the community, ensuring the health and welfare of animals, and driving continuous improvement.
The Australian red meat and livestock industry has set the ambitious target of being Carbon Neutral by 2030 (CN30). This target means that by 2030, Australian beef, lamb and goat production, including lot feeding and meat processing, will make no net release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere.
Since 2005, the Australian beef industry has reduced its CO2 emissions by 56.7 percent.
In the last five years, the industry has reduced the amount of water required to raise cattle from 515 litres per kilogram to 486 litres per kilogram.
The number of cattle properties covered by a documented biosecurity plan has increased from 25 percent to 90 percent.
Widespread rainfall and improved seasonal conditions sees the prospect of the national herd entering an expansion phase after an estimated 12% contraction over the extended drought period.
Adult cattle slaughter for 2020 is forecast at 6.9 million head, a drop of 19% on 2019 as producers look to restock herds.
It is anticipated that cattle turnoff will decline to its lowest point since the mid-90s and remain at historically low levels for the next two years.
National beef production is forecast to decline 16% to 2.05 million tonnes carcase weight (cwt).
Despite the uncertainty of Covid-19 Australian red meat exports have been relatively steady for the first quarter of the year, sitting even with 2019 levels. However, annual 2020 beef exports are forecast to be down 20% on last year.
Widespread drought conditions persist with severe feed and water shortages. The national beef herd has declined 7.3% to 26 million with many producers having either destocked or significantly depleted their breeding herds.
The grain feeding sector has been a critical link in the supply chain during the prolonged drought and continues to support national beef production. The number of cattle in feedlots reached a new record above 1.1 million head for the fourth consecutive quarter.
The latest reports from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reconfirm that for significant drought recovery to occur, prolonged rainfall over months or seasons will be needed, which is unlikely in the latest 3-month outlook.
Between 2005 and 2016 the Australian red meat industry reduced GHG emissions an impressive 57.6% as calculated by CSIRO using the Australian Government’s National Greenhouse Gas Accounts.
Our proportion of Australian GHG emissions also reduced by more than half from 21.4% in 2005 to 10.4% in 2016 while emissions from the Mining; Electricity, Gas and Water; Residential; and Services, Construction and Transport sectors have all continued to increase.
Lamb and mutton prices surged to record levels in 2019 as lower domestic supply met with robust international demand.
The majority of Australian sheep producers are still managing heavily depleted breeding flocks and heightened feed costs as severe drought conditions continue.
The national sheep flock was hit hard in 2019 on the back of difficult conditions in many key sheep producing areas. At 66 million head, the flock estimation represents a decline of 6.5% year-on-year.
Looking forward, lamb production is expected to steadily recover over the next few years to 531,000 tonnes cwt in 2022, based on lamb productivity gains and the assumption of a growing flock and the return to average seasonal conditions.
The number of consumers shifting to a vegetarian diet remains relatively stable at 7.6% although 75% of vegetarians classify themselves as ‘flexi’ and open to including meat in their diet.
2019 has been extremely challenging for sheep producers with drought persisting in all key regions. Insufficient rainfall has compounded the effects of a two-year period of rainfall deficiencies. NSW remains the worst affected with 99% of the state still drought-declared. The climate outlook is a drier-than-average winter for all key regions.
The demand outlook remains positive with both lamb and mutton prices reaching record highs in the last 12 months despite the drought. The national mutton indicator broke through 600¢/kg cwt in May for the first time and lamb prices are now on par with the record highs of August 2018.
Heightened sheep slaughter, lower-than-expected lambing rates and an unfavourable weather outlook is expected to see the national flock fall to 65.8 million by June 2019, a decline of 6.8% year-on-year. The fall represents the largest year-on-year decline since 2008.
The definition of lamb is changing in Australia from 1 July 2019. The current definition is ‘A female, castrate or entire male that has 0 permanent incisor teeth’. The new definition is ‘an ovine animal that is under 12 months of age; or does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear.’
Average lamb carcase weights have followed a consistent upwards trend, due to improvements in genetics and production systems, as well as a continued transition away from Merino lambs towards first and second-crosses. Expected lamb carcase weights for 2019 remain unchanged from 2018 levels at 22.5kg cwt.