Article Summary: After a devastating drought throughout 2019 and 2020, forecasts by FAS show Australian beef production will increase by 13 per cent in 2023, and cattle slaughter volume will rise by 14 per cent. This sets the beef industry on the path to recovery after it fell to its lowest levels in decades in 2021. Rainfall, beef production, foreign market demand, domestic beef consumption and an increase in export trade will all play a big part in this upturn, and this article takes an in-depth look at these factors.

In some good news to come out of the past few years, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) predicts that Australian beef will rebound strongly next year in its exports and production.

After a devastating drought throughout 2019 and 2020, forecasts by FAS show Australian beef production will increase by 13 per cent in 2023, and cattle slaughter volume will rise by 14 per cent. This sets the beef industry on the path to recovery after it fell to its lowest levels in decades in 2021. 2022 only saw a marginal improvement, but 2023 will see female slaughter rates, which have continuously fallen over the past three years, rebuild and contribute to larger beef production and exports. All these findings are according to the forecasts that form part of the organisation’s Australia report, of which there are 2,000 reports added each year.

Let’s outline some key factors that will contribute to a positive outcome for an industry that has seen many challenges and setbacks over the past few years.


Increased rainfall plays a huge part in the return to form of Australia’s beef industry. Australia is in its third successive season of increased rainfall nationwide, leaving pastures in top condition and ready for more heavy rain, forecast for Queensland, the country’s top beef-producing state, in the early stages of 2023.

The only region in Australia that has experienced poor rainfall in the first seven months of 2022 and is a significant cattle producer is the northern part of the Northern Territory. However, this region primarily focuses on the live cattle trade and has little impact on national slaughter numbers. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology predicts a high likelihood of above-average rainfall across the country (excluding Western Australia, which only accounts for 8% of the herd) from September to November 2022. This, combined with the advanced stage of the herd rebuild and good rains in the first half of 2022, is expected to support the increase in pasture production and cattle growth, leading to the anticipated increase in slaughter numbers for 2023, according to the FAS report. 

Beef production

FAS predicts that Australian beef production will increase by 13% in 2023, reaching 2.2 million tonnes carcase weight equivalent, compared to the revised estimate for 2022 of 1.95 million tonnes. This increase is expected to be accompanied by a 14% rise in the volume of cattle slaughter. Still, carcase weights are anticipated to be slightly lower due to a decrease in the proportion of total slaughter coming from feedlot cattle and an increase in the rate of female slaughter.

Despite the expected rise in feedlot cattle, overall slaughter numbers are anticipated to increase, with the slaughter of grass-fed animals expected to grow even more.

Based on past trends, the average carcase weight for adult cattle slaughtered in Australia is expected to drop to 317kg in 2023, compared to 320kg in 2020. This is because grass-fed finished cattle typically have lower slaughter weights than Australian cattle finished in feedlots. However, other factors such as droughts, strong pasture production years, and the number of high carcase-weight Wagyu animals from feedlots can also impact the average carcase weight.

Increase in export trade due to feedlots

Export trades are set to increase by 15 per cent, equating to a rise of 1.5 million tonnes of carcass weight.

In Australia, the percentage of national cattle slaughter coming from feedlots has generally been on the rise. However, when the drought ended, and the process of rebuilding the herd began in 2020, the overall slaughter numbers significantly decreased. Despite intense competition from those looking to raise grass-fed beef cattle through restocking, the slaughter numbers from feedlots only slightly reduced.

During the national herd rebuild, feedlots could keep numbers high and meet the demand for beef exports and partially meet the lower domestic demand by raising the price of beef. In 2023, the FAS anticipates the herd rebuild will be further along, leading to less competition for young cattle from restockers. This is expected to result in more supply being available for feedlots, allowing them to produce more grain-fed cattle at more competitive prices for export markets, particularly in North Asia. This is expected to contribute to the predicted increase in beef exports.

Domestic consumption

FAS predicts local consumption of Australian beef to increase by 8% in 2023. This is mainly due to the forecast rise in beef production, where supply will increase locally, as will its competition against other meats. Retail prices will match as a result.

The only concern is that the cost of living will continue to increase and flow on through to 2023, affecting the level of disposable income. This will no doubt affect beef purchases somehow, keeping the rise in domestic consumption forecast under ten points. 

Foreign market demand

Thanks to demand in the US, Japanese and South Korean markets, Australian beef exports will have a greater opportunity for shipments to these countries in 2023. After the US cattle crisis of 2022, where western US farming states (including Missouri and Texas) are suffering from devastating drought and declining stock levels, Australia’s boon will help see the demand for meat in these regions met.

And a final note…

Rabobank has recently published that on a global scale, even though the number of cattle is expected to increase, it is likely that beef production will not see any further growth in 2022 due to labour constraints and narrow profit margins. However, it is predicted to increase by 5% globally in 2023.

Overall, the pace of beef slaughter is still constrained by a lack of skilled labour. However, thanks to an uplift in rainfall across Australia’s top beef-producing states and predicted increases in female slaughter, beef production and export opportunities, Australia’s beef industry will see its’ highest production rate and returns in many decades.

That’s some good news all ‘round.

Until we meet again, Happy Farming!

- The Dedicated Team of, 2022-12-22