Weekly genetics review: Preparation key to successful Autumn 2023 bull purchases

Genetics editor Alastair Rayner, 24/01/2023


RECENT years have seen an extension in the traditional bull selling periods each year.

The ‘Spring’ selling season now extends from late June through until November. At the other end of the year, Autumn sales are scheduled to commence in February and will most likely run through until May and into early June, meaning there is no longer any clearly-defined mid-year break.

As Beef Central’s autumn bull sales calendar and directly shows (click here to view), in many ways the distinction in bull selling seasons is becoming more blurred – particularly as producers take up the opportunity to pursue genetics nationally through online selling platforms.

The opportunity to purchase bulls from practically any state throughout the year has potentially altered the way seedstock breeders consider the timing of their sale.

As competition increases, some producers have looked to move their dates slightly in order to obtain some “clear air” and showcase their genetics more prominently to the widest audience.

The result is the extension of the sales periods. Not that an extension to sale times is an issue, rather it is a trend that producers need to consider and use to their own advantage over coming months.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of bull selling season is the pressure many cattle producers feel to look over a range of programs and sires. The gradual extension of sale dates does ease that pressure to see as many bulls or attend sales in a short period, and so the search for “free air” can be as equally beneficial for commercial producers as it is for the breeders seeking to attract buyer demand.

While the trend can offer some advantages, it is equally important to ensure that time to analyse and consider the effectiveness of breeding strategies and actual breeder management.  January and February, particularly for spring-calving herds, are two key months for this analysis.

Preg testing value

The role of pregnancy testing as well as assessing breeder condition should be a common undertaking across all herds.

The value of pregnancy testing shouldn’t be underestimated. Too many producers consider the results in terms of pregnant females alone. While this is critical information, there is additional and equally valuable information to be gained for a focused breeder.

Range of pregnancy ages

One of the more useful data-sets is the range of pregnancy ages.

Not only does this indicate the expectation of when the majority of calves are likely to be born – allowing for early planning – it also provides insight into the effectiveness of management of condition at joining, nutrition for both breeders and sires or highlight issues associated with disease or age, resulting in later pregnancies and potential issues around management of the calf crop.

At the same time assessment of cow condition, along with weaner condition and weight is a strategic undertaking many producers should consider. The ultimate goal for management is to ensure cows have sufficient condition to manage the late autumn and winter feed gaps ahead of calving.

Condition scoring cows now can provide an indication of when weaning should occur to assist cows, as well as plans for future nutritional management ahead of the tighter conditions.

It is often a result of these breeder management strategies that will shape the decisions for prospective bull buyers over coming months.  The effectiveness of individual sires – indicated through pregnancy test results may alter plans for purchasing sires. It tends to be more effective to start planning early, particularly if additional sires are required on top of the anticipated numbers to purchase.

At the same time, a critical assessment of how well cows are managing conditions, and what variation there is across a herd can alter or shape decisions around the genetic direction a herd should be taking.

For all herds, breeding objectives should be reviewed at least annually, and this time of the year is a good way to use herd data to make better decisions on direction.

Over coming weeks the industry will have an opportunity to consider the strength of the 2023 autumn bull selling season.  For producers who have taken the time to consider what their herd data is telling them will be in a stronger position to consider these sales and make decisions accordingly.


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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