Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) released its mid-year report this week, revealing that the Australian cattle herd has reached 28.7m head, the highest since 2014.

The forecast for cattle slaughters this year has also been revised upwards by MLA to 6.95m head, 325,000 more than MLA had forecast for the year in January. The forecast for 2024 estimates that the national herd will reach almost 29m head and in 2025 grow further to 29.238m, a level not seen since 1978.

MLA is also forecasting a substantial increase in beef exports over the coming years. Having dipped to 854,000 tonnes (t) in 2022, MLA is projecting that this will increase to 1.061m tonnes this year,1.146m tonnes next year and by 2025 it forecasts that the volume of beef exported will be 43% higher than 2022 at 1.218m tonnes.

MLA highlights that following a prolonged period of drought, Australia has experienced what it describes as two wet years, back to back. This encouraged cattle retention and a note of caution is added with forecasts for future years highlighting that predictions are weather dependent.

The other big issue facing Australian factories is labour supply. While it hasn’t restricted production to date, there is concern that there may not be enough people to staff higher factory throughput.

Irish farmers will be watching which markets Australian exporters target with this potentially 43% additional supply. They have increased supplies to China which is now a tariff-free market for Australia, and they have also potential to increase exports to the US. However, most pressing for Irish farmers is how much do they export to the UK which is now also a tariff-free export market.