Weekly genetics review: Reflecting on a challenging 2023 bull selling year

Genetics editor Alastair Rayner, 31/10/2023

WITH only a few remaining sales in northern Australia still to be completed, the end of the 2023 bull sale season is now imminent.

Reflecting on what’s been a challenging year, it is easy to perhaps focus largely on the considerable difference in sale averages and clearances compared with 2022 or 2021.

There are, of course, significant differences from these years that have played a major part in comparisons withy 2023 results. Herd rebuilding, good seasonal conditions and strong market prices contributed to two exceptional, unprecedented years for bull breeders.

While autumn bull sales this year were generally held in average or better than average seasonal conditions for time of year, it was evident by the time the spring selling cycle had started that the weather was starting to work against bull breeders, and the trend only worsened as the year wore on. Both seasonal conditions and market uncertainty have played a major role in restricting bull sale averages and clearance rates this year.  The temporary suspension of live export trade with Indonesia over Lumpy Skin Disease concerns did nothing to add confidence into the northern bull market.

However, it is worth considering that across the major British and Bos Indicus breeds in the spring bull selling season, more than 15,000 bulls were offered for sale this year through auction, either at stand-alone events or as part of multi-vendor sales.

Ahead of Beef Central annual comprehensive full-year analysis and reporting on how the major breeds fared in 2023 for numbers sold and average price (due for publication around the end of November), here are a few interesting statistics to consider.

The preliminary per head average value across breeds for sales reported so far for 2023 sits at $9525, while the average clearance rate for bull sales currently sits at 83pc.

Based on available data, the Angus breed recorded the greatest number of sale listings and offered more than 5700 bulls this year at a (preliminary) average of $10,947, and an average clearance rate of 91pc.

Among the Bos Indicus influenced breeds, Santa Gertrudis breeders offered more than 1900 bulls for a (preliminary) average of $10,074 – to clear an average of 85pc.

Given this year was forecast to be a challenge, the preliminary results actually suggest that confidence in beef is still strong and is reflected by these clearances and averages.  There’s no doubt producers were spending less and buying fewer bulls; however, they were also in a better position this year to purchase very good genetics at prices reflective of their individual budgets.

While much attention is always given to prices and producers purchasing 2023 should also be noted for some of the interesting developments across the industry and in the way some breeders have chosen to market their bulls.


As noted in a previous Beef Central article, Valera Vale Droughtmasters in Central Queensland become the first seedstock producers to publish Genomic Breeding Values (GBVs) on every sale bull offered in the stud’s 2023 catalogue.

This is an exciting development, particularly for the northern industry, where producers can now consider the genetic potential for traits that have direct impact on fertility within their herd.

In a similar theme, this year saw the formation of the Frontier Genetics group. This group comprises a number of Queensland based Brahman breeders who have formed a collective approach to producing and offering bulls that must meet specific criteria including possessing performance data (EBVs) and are grass-fed.

Another development in their approach was to hold their own multi-vendor sale online.  It will be interesting to see how these developments continue over coming years – particularly given the strong commitment to both performance recording and grassfed preparation which is often a request many commercial producers make in discussing their bull purchasing decisions.

2023 also saw the first release of the Bush Agribusiness “Top Studs” publication.  This initiative is the first time a comprehensive listing of seedstock producers across breeds has been developed. The criteria for inclusion included use of BreedPlan at seedstock and breed levels, a minimum of 50 registrations in BreedPlan annually and that the 2021 average drop equals or exceeds the breed average for at least one selection index.

Bedding a list criterion in performance recording and against breed selection indexes does start to shift the evaluation away from subjective criteria associated only with perceptions of breeders or their cattle, to a more objective evaluation of the product (the bulls and their genetics) being offered.

While it is important to develop a relationship and understand a breeder’s goals and decisions, the list does help offer some basis for research and starting the search for the next herd sire for many producers.

While to some these may be only small development or events, they do suggest a change in some areas of the way in which bull breeders and the broader industry are seeking to move.

Although BreedPlan and EBVs are more than 40 years old now, single step genomics are a reality for many breeds – improving accuracy and producer confidence significantly in their sire selection process.

The approach to ranking seedstock producers on the quantity and quality of their data, the willingness to include that data at sale time or to seeing seedstock producers increasingly collaborate are all positive developments to take away from the 2023 season.



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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