THE boom in cattle prices has ramped up confidence among breed organisations this year, spurred on by members selling bulls at dramatically increased average prices.
One spring bull sale last week, for example, was up 72 percent on the previous year’s average (click here to view recent sale results).
Most major breed societies are now out there clawing for market share, using a variety of strategies.
In terms of Breedplan registrations, Angus lead the pack by a comfortable margin registering 65,659 calves in 2015, representing almost one third of all calves registered by cattle breeds last year. The growth within Angus has been extraordinary, with a team rumoured to be approaching 30 staff needed to manage the breed’s huge database of registrations and performance figures.
Angus has also become the benchmark for commercial cattle pricing, but only today a Shorthorn breeder button-holed me to announce, “We’re getting 15c/kg more than Angus resulting from our JBS-backed Thousand Guineas Shorthorn brand.”
Hereford breeders also claim they are matching Angus prices for supply into the EU market.
But the glamour performers in pricing at present are Wagyu, with Wagyu X Angus F1 steers weighing 200kg making more than 700c/kg live or $1400/head.
So what are breed organisations currently doing above and beyond their usual roles?
Angus hits the regions with genomics information
Angus was the first breed to take on Breedplan seriously, driven by Don Nicol. And Michael Pointer had the business smarts to get Certified Australian Angus Beef (CAAB) up and running. Both these initiatives have proved to be critical to the breed’s expansion.
Angus Australia has been conducting a series regional forums titled “Genomics in a Modern Angus Beef Business”, focusing on the opportunities to utilise the ever-increasing range of genomic technologies in breeding operations. The forums addressed questions such as:
- What genomic technologies are available?
- What are the main considerations when investing in genomic technology?
- What opportunities are provided by genomics?
- What are the main challenges when utilising genomics?
- What genomic technologies are likely to be available in the future?
The forums were delivered by Angus Australia’s chief executive, Peter Parnell, breed development & extension manager, Andrew Byrne, and strategic projects manager, Christian Duff.
Messrs Byrne and Duff were head-hunted from Armidale’s ABRI. Videos of the presentations can be found on www.angusaustralia.com.au
Herefords to ‘Take a Close Look at Themselves’
The breed with 12pc of all Breedplan calf registrations, Herefords Australia has appointed leading meat scientist Alex Ball as CEO, in a move aimed at regaining bull market share.
In another brave move, the Hereford board has called for submissions from external independent parties to review and provide an audit report of the corporate governance for the benefit of board, management and members.
But reading further into the terms of reference, they allow for investigation into the widest possible range of the Hereford Australia’s activities.
While many breed organisations have conducted investigations and assessments of their operations, this is possibly one of the widest-reaching exercises of this type ever.
This will include an assessment of:
- The performance in meeting obligations and compliance with the Corporations Act
- The development, implementation and the efficiency in the delivery of annual operating plans and financial budgets and the effectiveness of the company in meeting the priorities, targets and budgets as set out in these plans
- The structure, operations and policies and procedures of the company, to ensure good practice and systems of corporate governance
- The structure of the board, committees of the board and sub groups of Herefords
- The structure, objectives and limitations of the constitution of Herefords Australia
- The effectiveness of the arrangements for engagement, consultation, and communication with, and feedback to members
- The management and staff of Herefords and their operational efficiency
- Provide comment on the likelihood of success and impact of implementing the recommendations from the above.
And while it has taken decades to bring the horned and poll whiteface families together, a new dust storm has arrived on the horizon. Horned Herefords Australia Inc has been formed – a breakaway body that will offer recording services for ‘Environmentally Tested and Economically Sound’ horned Herefords.
Wagyu progress genomic discovery
Former senior Angus staffers Graham Truscott and Carel Teseling have joined forces at the Wagyu Association to revolutionise genetic discovery and remove the mystery surrounding this breed.
Wagyu have been in Australia for less than three decades yet has shot up to sixth spot in the breed hierarchy based on the number of calves registered on Breedplan in 2015.
The Wagyu Association conducts a conference each May and suggests the 2017 conference in Albury, NSW, will attract close to 500 delegates. Videos of the 2016 Wagyu Conference are available on www.wagyu.org.au
The independent review commissioned by Herefords Australia appears designed to document the levels of corporate compliance, administrative efficiency and accountability to shareholders. It’s unlikely that any “nasties” will appear in such a report but nevertheless it’s appropriate and part of director diligence. A further responsibility of executive and non-executive directors is to address any decline in value of return to shareholders, many of whom in this instance derive most of their income from a significant investment in whiteface cattle.
Let’s hope Dr.Ball is given license to adopt a whole-of-industry approach similar to Bob Freer’s initiatives in trying to arrest the decline of Hereford numbers and let’s hope that the focus is on the product itself rather than throwing hard-earned dollars at a marketing campaign. Serious beef cattle breeders only change breeds when they NEED to, not when they WANT to.