What does Australian Beef production consist of?

The following charts are over a shorter time frame to illustrate the volatility of the animals processed and the production base from which they originate. It also needs to be remembered some sales are seasonal in that a producer may specifically aim to target markets at certain periods based on their operations. Other producers may make sales depending  on opportunity, such as animal meet weights, funds required, fodder availability or property management decisions.

Beef production is mature animals slaughtered, made up of male and female, there is no distinction of young heifers, light cows, old cull bulls or prime steers that may have been backgrounded in feedlots. There is also no distinction between those animals custom fed in a feedlots to those totally reliant on natural systems.

The reason producers would have submitted animals for slaughter is as varied as the producers and production systems themselves. Some animals would have been produced with specific feeding regimes to develop an animal that is targeted to a specific weight range for slaughter, these animals are slaughtered in their absolute prime and peak condition as intended. Other animals could have been forced on the market due to economics, drought or management decisions, animal’s in light weight condition but forced to be sold all the same.

Figure 1 – Comparing the slaughter of male to female mature cattle animals over a long period. These mature animals are mainly from beef herds while the calves would be mainly from dairy herds.

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Figure 1. Australian Cattle slaughter rates 1977 – 2011

What affects the numbers processed.

Figure 2 – Australian slaughter of mature cattle compared to National herd, over a 10 year period. What needs to be remembered is the fluctuations in the national herd are only partly related to the slaughter figures. National herds figures are altered to allow for mortality due to droughts or good rainfall periods and they rely heavily on producers submitting figures for analysis, therefore the figures are  highly variable estimations.

Slaughter figures are very accurate as they are required to be recorded and submitted by the processing centres for individual animals.

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Figure 2 – Comparing slaughter rates to the National herd. 2001 – 2010

Why is the weight of an animal important at point of slaughter/sale?

What does the producer get paid for?

Animals bred by a producer may be grown on the original property and raised to slaughter weights to be sold direct to an abattoir in which the producer is generally paid a rate on the carcase weighed of the animal after slaughter and dressed (less hide, guts, head and legs), this is called an over the Hooks price.

If the producer sells the animal live such at an auction or to other producers they may be paid on weight of the animal, which is a value per kg basis or value per head, being a value for each animal as a live animal.

Some animals may change hands a number of times through their life or only the once when sent to slaughter.

What does the abattoir get paid for?

Weight of the animal entering an abattoir is very important as it determines the amount of yield from which the abattoir will be able to sell products.

The Processing costs of labour, utilities and inputs stays relatively the same across a similar type of animal but due to yield will actually mean a lighter animal costs more to process because they receive less product as a result.

Products which an abattoir may sell from the body of the animal are just about all of it, hide, offal, tallow, meat, blood, organs, some by products they can even reuse as for heating and energy reuse on site.

The irony of selling to an abattoir is that a producer only gets paid on the meat carcase they don’t get paid for the offal, hide and pieces removed. The compensatory factor of this is that normally an over the hooks price is much higher than a kilogram price paid for a live animal.

Figure 3 – Slaughter weights of mature cattle for 2010. These charts are comparing number of animals slaughtered to the meat produced as carcases. A large steer in prime condition who has been backgrounded would yield likely 300kg plus weights. Notice the green line indicating average weight is very low at May indicating many animals being slaughtered that were lower in live body weights to those compared to in November which averaged much higher.

I want to show the large changes in the average weights of animals and the type of animal being slaughtered and therefore did these charts on a year by year basis.

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Figure 3 – 2010 average weight of mature cattle slaughter

Figure 4 – Slaughter weights of mature cattle 2011

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Figure 4 – 2011 Average weight of mature cattle slaughter

Figure 5 – Slaughter weights of mature cattle 2012Part II. c. charts 005_edited-1

In part increased in slaughter weights across similar types of animals, ie steers may have increased due to producer management through the lives of the animals to their eventual slaughter weights. This sometimes depends on seasons and fodder availability for producers totally reliant on natural feeding systems. Heavier weights are also attributed to better management, knowledge, understanding, handling and technology in feedlots and genetics which have developed heavier animals and better practices of breeding, welfare and production.

Figure 6 – Average sheep carcase slaughter weight. Note that in this graph ‘sheep’ refers to older animals and not lambs.

As previously stated I know next to nothing about sheep production but thought some who do may do would be interested in the following.

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Figure 6 – Source – ABARES ACS 2012.Sheep carcase process weights

Figure 7 – Lamb carcase weights

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Categories: Animal Welfare, Australian abattoirs, Beef Industry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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