Retail lamb prices are expected to rise this year, with farmers telling Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) they will be keeping more sheep on the farm to build up their herd this season.
MLA is tipping the number of lambs sent to slaughter across Australia in 2017 will be 21.7 million head, 2.7 million lower than last year.
Mutton slaughter will fall to its second lowest level on record, at 5.8 million head.
Farmers are keeping more of their older ewes at home in order to increase herd sizes at a time when lamb, mutton and wool prices are all breaking or scraping recording record high levels.
Last year trade lambs — those between 18 and 22 kilograms — were averaging 557 cents a kilogram of carcass weight (c/kg cwt). Already this year, that has risen to 614c/kg cwt.
Exports are expected to drop by 7 per cent on last year's figures, but Australia will remain the dominant supplier to China, the USA and the Middle East.
High prices have already seen a number of regionally-based abattoirs shut down or cut capacity in recent months.
Australians consume, on average, between 9 and 9.5 kilograms of lamb each year, and MLA expects that figure to remain steady.
(From ABC Rural - 11 April 2017)