MOST of Australia’s significant beef breeds are expanding, with increased seedstock registrations despite Australia’s overall beef herd sitting at a 20-year low at just under 26 million head.
Figures released during last week’s Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association annual general meeting indicated a nine percent lift in registration numbers in 2016 compared with the previous 12 months in primary registers. There was a 6pc lift when primary* and secondary registers* are combined.
In total, 2016 total registrations at 211,781 were second only in number to 1995, when a little over 213,000 primary and secondary registrations were made. (see graph below).
Judging by seedstock registrations last year, the growth of the Angus breed continues unabated.
As the graph of the ten largest breeds by registrations published below shows, Angus again topped the list, recording 50,096 registrations back in 2007 and 70,076 in 2016, an increase of 19,980 or 40pc over the past decade. Year-on-year, Angus registrations rose 7pc in 2016.
Angus Australia’s Andrew Byrne said the breed now had a registered female inventory of more than 100,000 to produce this year’s figure of 70,000 registrations. A back-of-the-envelope calculation delivers a $2 million return to Angus Australia based on an average female inventory fee of $20 per breeding female per year. Mr Byrne indicated that 30 staff now populate the recently expanded Angus Australia office in Armidale NSW where they have developed many income streams to fund operations.
There was a time 40 years ago when the Murray Grey society had more staff, more members, more registrations and more money than the Angus society. However Murray Greys have increased registrations from 2015 to 2016 and now sit in 11th spot in the breed hierarchy based on registration numbers of 5122 in 2016.
As stated previously on Beef Central however, seedstock registrations or numbers of bulls sold at auctions are in fact poor indicators of overall breed popularity across Australia. Its is frequently estimated that up to two-thirds of all Brahman bulls used in Australia, for example, are not registered animals at all, but unregistered herd bulls bought out of the paddock, or bulls in fact bred on the property on which they are used, drawn from internal purebred ‘nucleus’ herds.
In percentage terms, Wagyu continue to perform strongly in registration numbers, lifting another 21pc over the past 12 months to register 10,261 head. Over the past ten years, the growth in registrations has been meteoric, lifting 178pc – more than twice the rate of the next fastest growing breed.
With registered Wagyu seedstock now bringing exceptional prices as the demand for bulls increases, a Wagyu content test has been developed allowing conforming cattle to achieve purebred status (but never fullblood) and enter the primary register.
A grading-up register is also planned for percentage Wagyu. AWA’s Carel Teseling indicates hundreds of new cattle being readied for entry in these registers while industry sources suggest these numbers could be in the thousands.
Sitting in second spot behind Angus for registrations this year is Hereford with 25,257 new registrations in 2016. This is an increase of 8pc on the previous year, but down 19pc on 10 years ago when perhaps there were some dual registered (horned and poll) skewing the numbers.
After a time of internal bickering, Herefords Australia has a new president, Bill Kee, some new board members, a new general manager Andrew Donoghue and a leading animal scientist Alex Ball all poised to take the breed forward. Commanding second spot on Australia’s registration ladder, the breed has a good launching pad. An industry source also claims the large financial losses Herefords Australia was reported carrying are nowhere near as high as earlier indicated.
In the third, fourth and fifth positions for registrations in 2016 are the three major tropical breeds – Brahman, Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmaster, all with numbers to continue their significant contributions to the sustainability of the northern industry.
Brahman numbers have not changed much in the past 10 years (down 3pc to 24,449 this year), Santa Gertrudis had a big jump (up 22pc to 17,423), while Droughtmaster declined (down 27pc to 11,386). Worth noting, however, is the difference in approaches in different breeds to registration (more on this below). The Droughtmaster breed, for example, has no secondary register, and has only this year commenced introduction of calf-recording for females. Both have a big impact on registration numbers.
The Brangus breed is the smokey in the 2016 report. With 6675 registrations for the 2016 year, it lifts the breed to eighth place following a 56pc jump in registrations in the past 10 years and 45pc since 2015.
According to the Brangus Association’s president Mark Beckman, the breed now has more members registering more cattle with many using the foundation register to bring in top Angus and Brahman genetics while keeping within the 25pc to 75pc range for either parent breed content.
However, most registrations are cattle derived from parents that are registered Brangus. The breed will be on show at the 12th Brangus bull sale at Roma Qld when 164 will step into the sale ring on September 1 (see full list of upcoming spring bull sales for all major breeds here).
“The breed continues to attract new members who are registering more cattle and the commercial attributes of the breed are drawing cattle producers towards it,” Mr Beckman said.
The Ultrablack, an Angus-heavy Brangus-type, does not appear in the breed lists but some are registered in the Brangus foundation register and some in the Angus Multi-Breed (MBR) register.
For several decades ARCBA has provided registration statistics to assist industry to plan and develop strategies for growth and breed improvement. These reports are made more difficult with several different systems in use in the Australian industry.
Some breeds use the annual female herd inventory system where members peruse their lists annually, deleting females that have died or no longer worthy of retaining in the stud herd, and pay an annual fee averaging around $20 per retained female. Their progeny can be registered in the various herd books.
Other breeds retain the traditional method of registering and paying a fee for a calf once it is born with penalties to register these calves later in their lives.
Some breeds, such as Santa Gertrudis, have a system with physical inspection by an independent breed association employed classifier necessary before herd book registration can be completed.
Since 1998 the ARCBA report has included two levels of registrations, primary and secondary. In general terms, primary registers are the highest level of pedigree authenticity, many are closed herd books while some cover cattle that have been graded up to fourth generation of greater than 95pc breed content.
Secondary registers are for cattle where registrations have lapsed and are being brought back into the system and for cattle involved in the grading-up process from other breeds.
ARCBA describes secondary registers as those which include animals that are bred for seedstock production and recorded by a beef breed society but excluding animals entered in the society’s herd book. The Association describes seedstock production as ‘The production of bulls for use in the registered and commercial cattle sectors.’
For example the Angus primary register is the Angus Herd Book Register (HBR) and is a closed herd book i.e. both parents must be in the HBR. The Angus secondary register is the Angus Performance Register (APR) which allows members to record pedigree and performance information on non-HBR straight bred Angus cattle.
The inventory fees for HBR and APR females are the same (around $20/female average). Last year 45,117 Angus entered the HBR and 24,959 the APR. There are no accurate figures, but industry sources suggest that commercial bull buyers do not show a preference for HBR over APR animals.
Figures quoted in this article combine primary and secondary registrations.
Over the years breed organisations have threatened to withhold their registration statistics from ARCBA if breed comparisons were made.
Genetics Central believes it is in the interests of the industry to have access to this information to facilitate planning and monitor industry-wide trends.
Maybe a potential new seedstock producer may decide there are too many Angus calves being registered (70,076 in 2016) creating an over-supply – perhaps encouraging them to go with a promising smaller breed such as Speckle Park, where only 1053 calves were registered in 2016 but demand is hot.