The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released its first six monthly update on Brazil’s supply of cattle, pigs, beef and pork for 2024.

It says that Brazil is currently at the bottom of the cattle cycle, having been liquidating herds since last year because of weather and poor process.

Increased levels of cattle slaughter will mean another record year for beef exports in 2024.

Production is forecast at 11.37m tonnes for 2024 and with domestic production predicted to be 9.4m tonnes, exports are expected to increase by 2% to almost 3m tonnes.

As a result of the herd liquidation, the national herd is expected to fall to 192.6m head by the end of 2024, down from 194.4m head in 2023.

A 6% percent increase in the pig crop - due to lower production costs, improved domestic consumption and positive export - along with a 4% increase in slaughter is forecast for 2024 to 4.6m tonnes.

The USDA is predicting a 4% increase in consumption to almost 3.2m tonnes because of better supply and lower consumer prices.

Reduced production in Europe is forecast to increase export opportunity in 2024 and export volumes are expected to increase by 6%.


Having completed herd and flock rebuilding in recent years, the latest Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) forecast is for the cattle herd to drop 1% to 28.6m head.

The number of cattle slaughtered in 2024 is forecast to increase by just under 12% to 7.9m head, the highest annual total since 2019, with beef production increasing by almost 11% to 2.5m tonnes.

The sheep flock is forecast to drop by almost 3% to 76.5 million in 2024, but is expected by MLA to remain above the 10-year average for the foreseeable future.

MLA is forecasting a further increase in sheepmeat production in 2024 to 26.1m lambs and 10.1m mature sheep for mutton.

In terms of sheepmeat production, lamb is expected to reach 621,000t in 2024, a 9% increase on last year’s record production, with mutton production increasing just over 3% to 254,000t.

Export volumes are forecast to be around 335,000 tonnes of lamb and 211,000 tonnes of mutton in 2024.

Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef, accounting for 2.5m tonnes, one quarter of all beef traded in international markets, while Australia competes with the US for second place, exporting over 1m tonnes annually.

US beef export volumes fell in 2023 from record highs in 2022 and are expected to decline further in 2023.

However, given that Brazil and Australia both target Asian markets as well as the USA for forequarter beef used in burgers and manufacturing, it means that a major breakthrough for Irish beef exports to these markets is less likely in the year ahead.

Australia is now, by a distance, the top exporter of sheepmeat in the world, with exports forecast to reach 547,000t in 2024, with New Zealand in second place – it exported 384,000t of sheepmeat in 2023.

Between Australia and New Zealand, they account for 70% of sheepmeat traded in global markets.

For Irish sheep producers, there has to be concern at the volume of supply and the fact that price in Australia and New Zealand is half of what it currently is in Europe.

With the UK market now open to Australian exports, it is likely that competition for that market will increase significantly in 2024.