A FEATURE of this year’s spring bull selling season has been commercial cattle producers regularly out-bidding stud breeders for the top-priced bulls.
How can commercial breeders justify paying such high prices for individual bulls which under natural matings might only sire 200 calves in their working life?
The three top priced bulls at the Moongana Santa Gertrudis sale at Springsure on Saturday were all purchased by commercial beef producers. The $50,000 top priced bull, Moongana Lumberjack, was purchased by Clark and Tait’s Enniskillen Pastoral Co, for after a spirited bidding war with Scott Dunlop and family of Dunlop Santa Gertrudis stud, Proston.
Enniskillen Pastoral run a large Santa Gertrudis commercial herd on number of properties across central western Queensland, and the $50,000 bull is understood to be going into a bull breeding nucleus herd at Mantuan Downs, near Springsure.
As a key sire in the bull breeding herd, his genetics will be widely spread through the Enniskillen Pastoral Co herd, justifying the large outlay through successive generations.
Eniskillen Pastoral bought five bulls in total at Saturday’s Moongana sale for an average of $18,700, by outbidding stud breeders in attendance.
Commercial cattle breeders Matthew and Bernadette Paine, Myola, Springsure paid the second top price of $19,000 for the polled bull, Moongana Legend, to go into an 1100-cow Santa Gertrudis commercial herd which sells heavy steers targeting the European Union market.
“We look for high quality bulls which will breed good females and put extra weight into our steers,” Mr Paine said. “Our production comes from our breeders so we look for good fleshing and softness to ensure the cows reproduce on a regular basis.
The Paines turn off steers at between 27 and 36 months, so are looking for weightgain along with good rib fat to ensure they are adequately finished at slaughter.
“In recent years we have just found that when we pay under $10,000 for bulls, we are buying lesser quality animals, so we have lifted our sights to get the better bulls,” Mr Paine said.
“Instead of buying six bulls, we now buy four good ones and breed a few of our own bulls,” he said.
Another commercial breeder, Karen Dunlop of Spean Pastoral Co, Esk, paid the third highest price of $18,000 at Saturday’s Moongana sale for a bull heading into a commercial Santa herd. This not the first time Spean Pastoral Co have paid good money for Santa bulls, having paid $19,000 for a Bullamakinka-bred bull in 2016 and $18,000 for Dunlop-bred bull in 2017.
Earlier in the spring bull selling season, NSW commercial operation Minnamurra Pastoral Co, Coolah, paid the top price of $16,000 at the Te Mania Angus northern sale at Walgett, NSW.
Running a herd of 4000 Angus cows, Minnamurra Pastoral has been buying high-priced bulls from the Te Mania Angus stud for the last 18 years, paying as much as $30,000.
Minnamurra manager Dennis Power said he could not afford not to pay top money for the best bulls.
“We buy bulls to breed females and the steers come as well. If we breed good females, we breed good steers,” he said.
“Replacement females are very hard to value because of the genetics they contribute to improving the herd,” Mr Power said.
“With the right genetics we can turn off steers weighing 500kg at 12 months when the seasons are good. We can turn our best steers off six weeks earlier, which is a significant saving in feed.”
“The top studs have very accurate EBVs these days, so we can confidently buy short gestation, low birth weight bulls with high intramuscular fat (IMF) percentage as well as excellent growth rate.”
Minnamurra normally collects 1000 straws of semen from new bulls, joining up to 1000 heifers in a fixed-time AI program. The program works on a 60 percent conception rate, meaning it can produce 600 calves from a new ‘elite’ high-priced bull in the first year he is used.
“We find that with a large AI program, we can use one very good bull each year, plus a handful of cover bulls including good bulls purchased in previous years,” Mr Power said.
Commercial cattle breeders Noel and Liz Cook, Kindon Station, Goondiwindi, paid the top price of $34,000 at the Ironbark Hereford sale at Barraba last week.
Regular buyers of high priced bulls at the Ironbark sale, Kindon runs a commercial Hereford herd of some 7500 cows as well as a significant feedlot turning off up to 800 head per month.
They selected Ironbark Storm M194 because of his weight for age, structural soundness and wide hindquarter as well as the highest ranked bull for IMF percent in the sale.
At the Burenda Angus sale in Roma, the two top priced bulls were again purchased by commercial breeders for $16,500 each in a very even sale that averaged just over $9500.
Patrick and Melody Rynne, Jillaby, Moonie paid equal top price for Burenda Maestro M429 to use in their 400-cow Angus herd.
“We find we have to pay that sort of money to buy bulls in the top 10 to 15 percent of the breed, and have paid $13,000 for two other bulls this year,” Mrs Rynne said.
The Rynnes sell their steers to Kerwee feedlot at 380 to 480kg, where they go into a 200-day fed program, so marbling is important. Surplus heifers are sold to other breeders.
“We want an easy-calving, fertile herd so we want moderate-framed cattle with slick coats. Because the steers go into a longfed program, we do not need high rib and rump fat EBVs, together with marbling performance.
“We pay very close attention to the EBVs of the bulls to ensure we get the genetics we want, and our aim is to keep improving on what we do,” Mrs Rynne said.
“We would be really happy to pay less than what we do for our bulls, but we find that there is a lot of competition for the bulls that we want to buy. We select on EBVs but if the bull does not have the right phenotype we will not buy it.”
Paying equal top price at the recent Burenda sale was the Johnstone family, Canberra, Banana.
Volume buyer at the Burenda sale was Consolidated Pastoral Co, which paid an average of $9895 for 24 bulls which are destined for the famous Newcastle Waters Station in the Northern Territory.
Burenda stud manager, Jonathan Schmidt, said the stud’s commercial clients were prepared to pay good money for bulls with good EBVs, but they also needed to be structurally correct and have good phenotype.