Weekly genetics review: A new year underway for bull breeders across the country

Genetics editor Alastair Rayner, 01/02/2022

THE new year for bull breeders is well underway across most states, with a number of early on-farm and multi-vendor Autumn sales attracting interest from commercial producers and seedstock buyers alike.

One of the clear trends already emerging is the increasingly shortening gap between the end of the spring bull selling season and the start of the autumn sales each year. Bull selling is now spread through a much wider period of the year than it once was.

Contributing to this trend has been the creeping extension of the spring sale season.  Traditionally this season starts to wind down in late October as producers seek the final few sires to add to teams ready to work in joining programs.

While this underlying demand remains largely unaltered, the past few years of high demand for bulls to use in herd rebuilding has encouraged the sale season to extend slightly longer than was the case even five years ago.

Consequently, it seems many people have just had time to draw a breath and have a short reflection on the year that was, before starting the autumn sales.

In 2022 it is apparent in speaking to bull breeders, commercial cattle producers and agents that the three key contributors to the strength of the previous year’s sales are again dominating the mindset of those seeking new sires to join their breeding teams:

Favourable seasons continue

The season across most areas of the country remains highly favorable. The Bureau of Meteorology reported that the spring of 2021 was the wettest since 2010 and the tenth wettest on record.

While not all parts of the country received above average rainfall, overall, the season remains extremely favorable for pasture growth. The confidence that grass brings has influenced many producers’ decisions on breeder numbers and decisions to retain future breeders for joining in 2022.

Following two strong years of rebreeding, it is apparent many producers are now feeling they have more females to select from and are able to start applying greater pressure at selection. Combined with the strong season, there is a confidence that selected breeders will be able to grow well and express their potential.

Continued strength in cattle market

In line with confidence in the season, the prevailing optimism surrounding the cattle market remains high. The outlook for 2022, as presented in this morning’s annual cattle projections issued by MLA, is a key factor influencing many bull purchasing decisions, as it was last year.

A strong market outlook inspires producers to enact plans for rebuilding and to refine their programs to achieve personal goals. The confidence in the season and knowledge that surplus females will find a ready market does play into the decisions of many producers considering their sire purchases this season.

Trade-in value on cull bulls

The ongoing strength of the cattle market continues to dominate the conversation and opinions of most cattle producers.

As the market indicators continue to push into new levels, producers inevitably see the changeover value of bulls as a strong value proposition.

In relative terms, bull values to number of steers sold remains fairly constant.  In 2021, respected Qld agent Harvey Weyman Jones of GDL Dalby, analysed the ratio of heavy steers sold to the average purchase price of bulls over a 10-year average. The ratio remained very similar, at around 4.6 heavy steers to the average bull value.

With this trend in mind, it is not unrealistic to expect that prices for bulls this autumn are likely to remain strong, as producers consider the returns they are receiving for steers and surplus heifers.

In practical terms, the confidence producers hold in the future has been displayed by attendances during the recent southern Beef Week events.

In speaking to a number of seedstock breeders who hosted open days, almost all reported an increased level of interest in bulls. While most of the visits were from existing clients looking to assess bulls’ pre-sale, it has been noticeable that many of the breeders spoken to had met a large number of new producers seeking to access new genetics and expand their options for future sires.

As the first autumn sales rapidly approach, there is solid confidence among most seedstock breeders that the combination of market strength, producer confidence underpinned by the market and the season will result in a very strong start to the 2022 bull selling year.


Alastair Rayner is the Principal of RaynerAg, an agricultural advisory service based in NSW.  RaynerAg is affiliated with BJA Stock & Station Agents.  He regularly lists and sell cattle for clients as well attending bull sales to support client purchases.  Alastair provides pre-sale selections and classifications for seedstock producers in NSW, Qld and Victoria.  He can be contacted here or through his website









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