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National cattle herd rebuild to continue in 2022

Key points:

  • National herd forecast to grow by 1.1m in 2022 as herd rebuild becomes more pronounced

  • Slaughter numbers forecast to rise by 11% in 2022, driven by increased supply

  • Production volumes expected to reach 2.08m tonnes, a positive for export markets.

With above average rainfall predicted across New South Wales and parts of Queensland, the national cattle herd rebuild is set to continue, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) first Cattle Industry Projections update for 2022.

The national herd is projected to grow by 1.1 million, or 4%, to 27.2 million head as the rebuild becomes more pronounced. In addition, slaughter numbers are forecast to rise by 11% in 2022, driven by increased supply.

MLA’s Market Information Manager, Stephen Bignell, said that the ongoing rebuild is positive for the red meat and livestock industry, however the pace of the rebuild will vary across different states, underpinned by a third year of favourable seasonal conditions for southern Australia.

“Herds in the southern states of New South Wales and Victoria will mature favourably, with large numbers of high-quality young breeding females and heifers joined to deliver a large cohort of calves for the 2022 spring. Females will be well nourished from abundant and good quality pastures promoting favourable growing conditions,” Mr Bignell said

“While the southern states are accelerating their rebuilds, success in the north will be ongoing, albeit at a slower pace.

“While Queensland’s rebuild has been aided by excellent spring and summer rainfall events in central and southern parts of the state, the northern pastoral system requires a positive end to the 2022 wet season before its rebuild can definitively begin in 2023."

The northern system's rebuild is currently reliant upon successive favourable wet seasons occurring in 2022 and 2023 to deliver the core breeding herd an opportunity to increase joining percentages and branding rates.


Increased supply will see slaughter numbers increase by 11% in 2022, with production volumes expected to reach 2.08 million tonnes, a positive sign for export markets according to Mr Bignell.

“Following a challenging 2021 for export markets, Australian beef will enter a significant high-value export market when the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement comes into effect later this year.

“As many countries continue to recover from the pandemic, demand for Australian beef is expected to grow in line with improving supply of cattle from the second half of 2022.

“However, headwinds remain for the industry in 2022 with transportation, staff shortages and the potential for the Australian dollar to appreciate all challenges for industry to manage.

“While these challenges remain, the beef industry is experiencing market conditions and confidence never seen before at a producer level.

"Overall, the industry is in an incredibly positive position and will continue to deliver high value, high quality Australian red meat to both emerging and established global markets.”


View a full copy of MLA’s February 2022 Beef Projections here.

MLA's first Cattle Projections webinar for 2022 will be held Thursday 3 February at 11am AEDT. Click here to register for the webinar, which will provide a considered analysis of the forecast Australian cattle market for 2022.



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