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9 November, 2020

Special report: How the major cattle breeds fared in 2020

The Rural Leader sat down with a few of the biggest cattle breed societies in Australia to discuss 2020's bumper livestock season.


THE Rural Leader sat down with a few of the biggest cattle breed societies in Australia to discuss 2020's bumper livestock season.

Producers confident in rebuilding herds with black cattle

 DEMAND from both the seedstock and commercial sectors have pushed Angus cattle to record prices in 2020.

 The record average price for Angus bulls sold at auction this year reached $20,384.

 Un-joined Angus stud heifers averaged $9,068, while PTIC commercial Angus females hit a record high of $3,900.

 Add this to records for both steers and heifers at the Roma Saleyards and you get what appears to be unprecedented demand for black cattle.

 Angus Australia CEO Peter Parnell said it was hard not to be surprised by just how strong bull sales were this Spring. 

 “These outstanding results are a testament to the overall confidence in the market for high quality Angus genetics,” Mr Parnell said.

 “I think it is highly correlated with sheer confidence in the beef industry, driven by cattle price.

 “We’ve seen the same trend in the past, when a strong commercial cattle market will fuel a surge in bull sale results, it seems to even over-ride seasonal impact.”

 Mr Parnell said the cattle market was fueling tremendous confidence among commercial bull buyers.

 “Hopefully, our message about the impact of performance recording is filtering through – of the value in investing in high performance genetics.” 

 Angus Australia’s marketing and communications manager, Diana Wood said the records showed commercial producers were looking to rebuild with a breed they could trust. 

 “Producers are going deep into their pockets to purchase Angus bulls and females,” she said.

 “Each week we are seeing unprecedented demand for Angus females, across saleyards, AuctionsPlus and on property sales as restockers look to rebuild their herds.

 “The demand for Angus females is Australia wide and in particular restockers are chasing commercial females with known genetics and are willing pay top money for top quality Angus genetics.

 Mr Parnell said it was evident there was a significant lift in genetic trends this year for the Angus breed index values which suggested significant culling of older, lesser performing females had taken place. 

 “We are seeing a greater rate of genetic progress this year in the ABI,” he said.

 “It’s a response to a number of factors, partly that the message is getting through in terms of the value of selecting on performance.

 “But given the amount of culling that’s occurred due to drought, the seedstock herd that is left is of higher genetic merit.” 

Brahmans set Australian record for commercial females

AN ‘incredible market’ has seen high demand and record-strong prices across all types of Brahman cattle in the commercial and stud industries this year.

When The Rural Leader caught up with Australian Brahman Breeder’s Association manager Anastasia Fanning, she proudly described the breed’s exceptional year.

“Agriculture as a whole has been incredibly strong this year,” Ms Fanning said.

“It is great to see the commercial market strong and support the stud stock – it is a true credit to the Brahman breed.

“It shows how much the Brahmans are desired.”

In what is believed to be an Australian record price for commercial females, a pen of 104 Grey Brahmans sold for 1174.2c/kg liveweight at Charters Towers in September.

The No.9 heifers, averaging 302kg made $3546 a head, when bought by pioneer Brahman breeders the Joyce family’s Tropical Cattle Co, The Orient, Ingham.

They were part of a consignment of 266 heifers offered at the sale by prominent Poll Grey Brahman breeders Kelvin and Margaret Maloney and Brad and Kelveen Hancock, Kenilworth Brahmans, Mt Coolon.

“It was incredibly exciting to see 100-odd heifers sell for that exceptional result,” Ms Fanning said.

“Brahman Week was also outstanding with so many top prices, we had $210,000, $180,000 and $140,000 – to average $12,400 was an exceptional result for the vendors and a credit to the presentation of their bulls.

“The previous top price at Brahman Week was $150,000, so to beat it twice was fantastic. And on the second day we saw a Red Brahman go for $140,000.”

The $210,000 bull bred by Steve and Theresa Taylor, Clukan Brahmans, Jambin, weighed 952kg.

The 27-month-old was progeny of JDH Mr Elmo Manso and Clukan Bella, and was purchased by two studs, Rosetta Grazing and Ruan Grazing, to become the most expensive bull sold this year.

The online livestream of the Rockhampton Brahman Week sale attracted 3,900 views.

“After the drought, there is a bit of feed back in the paddock and as we get some more rain the market will continue to hold strong,” Ms Fanning said.

“We keep saying the market is short of cattle and there has been an enormous amount through the meatworks, but people who have grass also need to restock,” she said.

Ms Fanning said as field days and shows were cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the society continued to work on correlating data, measuring cattle and feeding numbers into BREEDPLAN.

“Data is incredibly valuable to breeders,” she said.

“If you are not measuring what cattle are doing, you don’t have an understanding of where they are at or performing.

“The traits breeders are looking for is fairly general, some people may continue to look at BREEDPLAN – days to calving or mature beast weight - but others generally look at the structure of the animal - is it well-muscled, well structured, a completely developed bull?”

As coronavirus restrictions continue to ease in Queensland, Ms Fanning said the society is positive Beef Australia will go ahead next May in Rockhampton.

“While it may not be to the capacity it has been in the past, certainly the international travel will be out of it and it is a terrible shame not to have them in the market to see what our cattle are doing,” Ms Fanning said.

“But It will be exciting for it to go ahead, we are expecting a large show team again. Each year we display a number of head in the pen section and it is always a wonderful display of bulls, cows and calves and heifers.”

For the first time this year the Australian Brahman Breeder’s Association ran a sale completely online. 

“The Gympie Female sale actually achieved very good figures, it topped at $32,000,” Ms Fanning said.

“The vendors had plenty of visitors to their properties. The lesser valued heifers would have benefited from a physical sale and I look forward to the sale returning to that in 2021. Although the bottom heifers probably suffered a little.

“But I would say 99 per cent of the breeds sales have an online component to it in 2020.”

Commercial producers prepared to pay top dollar for bulls

IT HAS been an outstanding year for the cattle industry, with increased confidence and demand driving record-breaking prices across stud and commercial fields.

Charolais Society of Australia general manager Colin Rex said it had been an interesting year for the breed, with increased sales and higher average prices amongst restrictions from COVID health protocols.

The top Charolais bull this year was bred by David and Sue Bondfield of Palgrove, Dalveen, Queensland.

The 24-month-old bull, Palgrove Pioneer (P) (R/F), weighed 984kg, had an eye muscle area of 144 square centimetres, and measured 42cm in the scrotal.

Len and Sue Bode, Percol Plains, McKinlay, purchased the bull sired by Silverstream Evolution (P) and from Palgrove Panache J1201E (R/F) for $64,000.

“Queensland sales have been particularly strong,” Mr Rex said.

“The confidence in the industry is really quite pleasing and it is reflecting in how much the commercial producers are prepared to pay for bulls.

“People who were lucky enough to get rain would see the Charolais cattle are taking advantage of the feed and efficiently converting it to muscle and growth.

“Our average, bull sale prices this year in Queensland has been increased to $9,861 per head.”

To celebrate the breed’s 50thyear in Australia, the society scheduled to hold the World Charolais Congress in August, which disappointingly did not go ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Across the board we’ve been disappointed we had to cancel our world congress,” Mr Rex said.

“The event was planned and ready to go, but we will do it again in 2026.

“It is a shame we couldn’t celebrate our 50th anniversary, we were the first European breed in the country and have really blazed the trail for the rest of them and it is pleasing to know we are still the number one European breed in Australia.”

Mr Rex said although the pandemic had put a stop to the world congress, Australian producers were fortunate to have quality online selling platforms to continue marketing their livestock.

“Most stud breeders have been keen to adopt online selling, a lot more sales this year have gone online or incorporated online, especially with the borders shut,” he said.

“But we are still seeing cattle being sold all over Australia, whether it has been online or alternative methods.”

Droughtmasters achieve 'one of its best years' to date

AN improved season, record cattle prices, and a progressive Board has seen the Droughtmaster breed go from strength to strength this year.

Reflecting on 12 months in the job, Droughtmaster Australia general manager Simon Gleeson said there was confidence in the breed going forward.

This year the breed has seen five Droughtmaster bulls sell for in excess of $100,000.

The Droughtmaster National Sale held at Rockhampton in September topped at $160,000, to average $10,990 per head.

The sale topper was the 21-month-old homozygous polled Rondel Whiskey, bought in a three-way stud buy by the High Country, Nindethana Pastoral and Glenlands D studs.

Described as 'one of the better sires of the year', Whiskey weighed 836kg, and had a 142 square centimetre eye muscle area, and a 39cm scrotal measurement.

“It’s been a record sale year for us,” Mr Gleeson said.

“And that comes down to a number of factors – we are coming off the back of a pretty bad drought, the benefits of using Droughtmaster cattle or bulls are being recognised and there’s an uplift in the cattle market across the board.

“There’s a lot of confidence in the industry, particularly those looking at the seasonal forecast for a LaNina at the end of the year.”

Alongside great market conditions, the Droughtmaster society has been working hard behind the scenes over the past 12 months to roll out a strategic plan to help the breed move forward.

Mr Gleeson said following a survey of their membership last year, they were able to identify key areas to drive the breed, which included marketing and promotion across the complete supply chain, data analysis and the need for corporate partners.

Last year Japanese beverage company Asahi, launched Droughtmaster Lager which resulted in a partnership being formed with Droughtmaster Australia. The lager, now available in 90 pubs and clubs in Queensland is marketed as a "an easier drinking modern beer still tough for Australians."

Mr Gleeson said they are also working to get Droughtmaster beef on the menu to serve alongside the beer.

“We’ve also just recently entered into a partnership with Ariat Australia, which is a really good fit for us, a lot of our members wear Ariat clothing,” he said.

“Through social media channels, we are looking at a number of different giveaways with Ariat and Just Country Australia as a way to increase our social media exposure.”

Mr Gleeson said Droughtmaster Australia is currently involved in a research project to provide its members with more data on Droughtmaster cattle in order to be able to promote the benefits of the breed in a competitive industry.

“One of the other big things people may have noticed is we have rebranded ourselves, we’ve changed our logo and colours and our slogan is now ‘Australia’s natural wonder’ and we’ve modernised our website,” he said.

Later this year Droughtmaster Australia will launch a promotional video aimed at telling the story of the cattle right across the supply chain.

“We’ve spoken to producers and discussed the benefits they see in the cattle, we have filmed at feedlots, processing facilities, pubs and clubs and high schools who incorporate Droughtmaster cattle in their educational programs,” Mr Gleeson said.

“It will be quite exciting to see it launched – I showed some members a preview during the National Droughtmaster Bull Sale and the feedback was great.”

Focus on breeding commercially relevant Herefords

AS demand increases for performance cattle, Herefords Australia is set to investigate the benefits of crossing the red and white cattle with northern breeds such as Santa Gertrudis and Brahmans.

Herefords Australia general manager Andrew Donoghue said after a successful Black Baldy trial, which found better maternal traits in crossbred dams and higher growth rates in crossbred progeny, they would look at how the breed fits into the northern climates.

“Herefords dominate in the centre of the Northern Territory,” Mr Donoghue said.

“It just goes to show their hardiness.

“Taking what we can out of the Black Baldy trial – I think there will definitely be benefits on the fertility on the maternal side and some carcass quality improvements on the steer side.”

Mr Donoghue said during 2020 the Hereford breed had sold extremely well commercially.

“They have been as strong as any other breed – in the grass finishing areas we are getting some very strong results.”

With a number of new directors on the Herefords Australia board, Mr Donoghue said the society had a new focus, which included continuing to make sure the breed was commercially relevant.

“We’ve introduced a new committee structure and have some good initiatives moving forward that’s going to benefit the breed,” he said.

“We are in the very initial stages of redeveloping our marketing strategy, increasing our focus on technical services and having a look at some good industry initiatives.”

Mr Donoghue said coronavirus had had minimal effect on sales.

“We had pretty solid plans in place for our national sale in May, when coronavirus first hit,” he said.

“It was the first of the sales to really be affected by it, but it achieved a fantastic result.”

The 55th Herefords Australia National Sale saw a top line-up of Hereford bulls sell to $55,000 and average $9040.

Held online via AuctionsPlus due to coronavirus restrictions, 100 of 110 bulls sold in the online sale for a clearance of 91 percent and a sale gross of $904,000.

The top price of the sale of $55,000 was paid for Yarawa South Paradise P112, offered by the Forster-Peel Partnership of Batlow, NSW.

Mr Donoghue said the northern sales had also gone from strength to strength this year as a result of “a few lean years” and where beef prices are sitting.

The top priced Hereford stud bull bred by Steve and Deb Reid of Talbalba Herefords sold for $100,000 at their on-property sale at Delemere, Millmerran in August.

Talbalba Emperor PO43, a horned 953kg, 24-month-old, was sold to Graeme Newnham, Cara Park Herefords, Delungra, NSW, and Ant Baillieu, Yarram Park Herefords, Willaura, Victoria.

Santa record broken twice within weeks

“RECORDS are made to be broken” are the words from Santa Gertrudis Breeders’ (Australia) Association general manager Chris Todd, as he describes what has been an outstanding year for the cattle industry.

Since the beginning of the year the Santa Gertrudis breed has held records on Auctions Plus for its commercial cattle, as Santa steers made 690c/kg and Santa cross heifers achieved 683c/kg.

In the stud sale ring, the top price breed record was broken twice within a matter of weeks.

Early in September the record was set at $110,000 by David and Suzanne Bassingthwaighte, when Waco Queenslander Q384 (PS) sold for $110,000 at the Yarrawonga Waco sale near Wallumbilla and was purchased by Rob and Lorraine Sinnamon, Yulgilbar Pastoral Company, Baryulgil, NSW.

Just two weeks later breeders Scott and Wendy Ferguson, Glenn Oaks Santa Gertrudis Stud, Nobby re-wrote the breed record when they sold a classified "S" bull, Glenn Oaks Palo P1211 (PS), a son of Warenda Kilimanjaro K4 (P) for $126,000, at the Santa Central sale.

Buyers Tom and Anna Dunlop, Munnabah Santa Gertrudis Stud, Coolah, NSW partnered with Howard and Kate Courts, Glenalbyn Santa Gertrudis Stud, Wellington, to secure the sire.

“It’s nice to see competition internally with our breeders,” Mr Todd said.

“We had not had a bull make over $100,000 before, to see the record beaten twice this year was incredible.

“40 years ago, you would have thought $30,000 was a hell of a lot of money to pay for a bull.”

Mr Todd said the coronavirus pandemic had impacted certain sales on the calendar, particularly after Queensland closed its borders for the second time in August.

“When the borders closed the second time, ag was not considered an essential reason to travel, unlike when the borders were closed in July,” he said.

“It meant Queenslanders were not able to get across the border for some of the sales, causing those studs to miss out on buyers.

“While most incorporate an online aspect into their sale, it is not the same as being able to see the cattle you are about to spend a fair bit of money on to purchase.”

Coronavirus restrictions also prevented the association from hosting its annual standards day and delegates meeting, but Mr Todd is confident these events will be able to go ahead next year.

“We are also looking forward to holding our youth camp in January, we cancelled it this year due to the drought and cattle tick infestations."

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