Sign of the times, as unwanted sale bulls get tipped into saleyards for beef

Beef Central, 20/09/2023


IN another sign of the current challenging conditions in the beef industry, numbers of unwanted fed bulls originally intended for sale as herd bull replacements through stud sales are defaulting into meat markets.

Dalby’s weekly cattle sale this morning included pens of bulls that were listed for sale as herd improvers in a bull sale catalogue only ten days or a fortnight ago. The bulls still carried their catalogue listings numbers on their rumps. Some carried the distinctive “S” brand n their rib, denoting breed classification.

Unwanted herd bulls like this are typically being sold either to processors for slaughter, or in this case to live exporters, for shipment to Vietnam as slaughter ready cattle. From Dalby, these bulls face a 1230km journey by road to their departure point in Townsville, at a cost estimated at 30-35c/kg.

Live exporter LSS has been operating on default sale bulls like these for the past few weeks at markets like Dalby, Beef Central was told. Southern processors specialising in manufacturing beef, like Throsby, have also been active, as have locals like JBS.

To put the current bull trading market into context, the Santa stud disposing surplus bulls at Dalby this morning last week sold only 65pc of its 2023 sale offering, averaging a little over $7300. The same sale last year sold all 57 bulls offered, averaging $11,719.

One of the nation’s largest Santa stud sales being staged today withdrew somewhere between 60 and 100 bulls from its catalogue at the last minute, to try to better align with current market demand.

While Santa bulls are used in the above example from Dalby sale this morning, the trend is by no means restricted to this breed alone.

This morning’s sale bulls, averaging 702kg liveweight, sold for 228c/kg, returning only $1602 a head, representing a big loss on their production cost.

Southern Queensland processor direct consignment grids currently have offers on heavy bulls like this at 380-400c/kg dressed weight, but that quote has been sliding rapidly over the past few weeks.

The same bull description sold to live exporters delivered Townville are this week making 270c/kg, while North Queensland processors are evidently offering 210-220c/kg liveweight equivalent.

One contact told Beef Central this morning that bull breeders in the current market environment preferred to dispose of unwanted bulls via the saleyard system rather than as paddock sales direct to processors, because it got them ‘off their books’ quickly, rather than having to feed them on to await a processor’s kill slot some time later in October.

In a normal year, unsold sale bulls are often negotiated privately with volume buyers after the sale, to commercial beef producers looking for bargains to cover large numbers of females. With this year’s seasonal challenges, there is clearly little buyer appetite for that.







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