By any standards, 2021 has proven to be an extraordinary year for seedstock producers across Australia, and the impact is clearly seen in Beef Central’s annual summary of average prices and numbers of bulls sold among larger beef breeds.
Fuelled heavily by herd rebuilding across large parts of the country after drought, and a restocker and slaughter cattle market that has ‘known no boundaries’, bull breeders have ridden a wave of producer confidence to re-set the bar for all major metrics for the industry this year.
Without exception, all breeds recorded in our annual summary published today (see table below, and today’s separate story on numbers sold) shows dramatic rises in average prices paid for bulls; numbers of bulls sold; and clearance rates of bulls sold at auction.
Beef Central has compiled this report each December since 2014. The analysis takes into account nation-wide auction sales (physical or online) for bulls from nine of the largest beef breeds in use across the country. Paddock sales, which make up a very large portion of bull sales for some tropically-adapted breeds, are not included, as they are simply impossible to accurately record. This also explains the absence of breeds like Wagyu, which while significant in beef industry production terms, sell virtually no herd bulls in the auction ring, and uses a disproportionately large amount of artificial breeding.
With final 2021 sales in Central Queensland only completed in recent days, all major beef breeds have recorded substantial-to-dramatic growth in average prices paid for bulls, clearance rates, and numbers of bulls sold this year.
Average price by breed – bulls sold 2021
Eight years’ worth of Beef Central data clearly shows that two key attributes drive breed-scale bull sale performance: seasonal conditions and commercial cattle and beef prices. In years when all three are favourable, like 2016-17, prices hit historically high levels, underpinned by buyer confidence. When one or more is lacking, results are impacted, to varying degrees.
For example there is a clear correlation between the start of Australian beef’s current cattle price ‘boom’ cycle in mid-2015, carrying through to today, with better average bull prices. That trend can be seen in the line graph at the top of this page.
It appears that seasons, on the other hand, tend to have a greater bearing on the number of bulls sold, and clearance rates achieved, rather than price.
A total of 365 auction sales of bulls in the nine represented breeds were held this year, in all five mainland states, plus Tasmania and the Northern Territory, Beef Central’s bull sales summaries show.
‘Boom year’ for average prices paid
The 2021 bull selling year, taking both autumn and spring sales into account, shows that all nine recorded beef breeds displayed dramatic rises in average prices paid for bulls sold at auction. Not surprisingly, most have set all-time records for average price.
As the table published here shows, breeds rose in value, year-on-year, by anywhere from $1170 (Brahman) to an incredible $5656 (Angus). In percentage rise terms, biggest increases were seen for Angus (prices were up 69pc on last year), 58pc for Shorthorn and 44pc for Santa Gertrudis.
As is always the case with sets of figures like this, they need to be put into some context.
In percentage increase terms, there may be some seasonal influence which has inflated % increases for some breeds this year. Last year, breeds more heavily exposed to autumn selling (Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn etc) arguably suffered in relative terms to other breeds, as many 2020 autumn sales were held prior to the general seasonal break. In contrast, this year’s autumn sales enjoyed the impact of a strong seasonal start to the year. We think that trend is perhaps reflected in year-on-year results for some breeds, and the comparisons with other breeds that do not sell large numbers during the autumn period.
One of the clear drivers of bulls prices was the willingness of commercial cattlemen to pay exceptional price for their bull purchases this year, fuelled by record prices for store and slaughter cattle. There were countless examples of commercial cattlemen averaging $20,000 for their purchases this year, and both Brahman and Santa Gertrudis breeds sold herd bulls to commercial buyers for $46,000. Some of those high-end bulls are destined for nucleus purebred herds designed to generate replacement herd bulls ‘in-house.’
Angus tops the league table
For the first time in history, the Angus breed has topped Beef Central’s ‘league table’ for breed average prices.
Angus this year averaged a record $13,776 for all bulls sold at auction – an extraordinary feat when it is considered the breed sold more than 10,800 bulls for the year – more than three times as many as the next largest auction breed (see today’s separate report).
The Angus breed recorded a 69pc rise in price over 2020 sales, but as described above, last year’s Angus average was impacted by autumn sales still afflicted by drought. Back in the middle of the drought in 2019, Angus bulls averaged only $6197 – considerably less than half of this year’s result.
Next best this year, within a few dollars of the Angus figure, was Santa Gertrudis, which recorded an average price of $13,738 – up 44pc on last year.
While all breeds performed exceptionally well, other highlights this year were Droughtmasters averaging $12,556, up 31pc; Shorthorns averaging $12,744, up 58pc; Brahmans $12,020, up 10pc from what was already an industry topping average last year; Charolais $11,318, up 30pc; Simmental $10,195, up 29pc; and Hereford $9607, up 29pc. Newcomer Speckle Park, added to this list for the first time this year, averaged $10,733 for 434 bulls sold.
Worth noting, also, is that unlike most other breeds, the Brahman result this year included almost 10pc of the offering that were unregistered herd bulls. The 198 Brahman herd bulls sold in 2021 averaged $8183, around two thirds of the value of the registered bulls, which averaged $12,341. If ever there was a motivation for registration of bull calves, this is it.
Australian Brahman Breeders Association manager Anastasia Fanning said continued strength in cattle prices, both for meatworks cattle and live export, had helped underpin confidence this year among bull buyers.
No breed is as heavily exposed to the live export industry as Brahmans, and continued strong demand out of Indonesia for lighter cattle, and Vietnam for heavier cattle, has underpinned trade, with Indonesia steers currently ex Darwin currently worth a record 440c/kg liveweight, up 60c/kg on this time last year.
And with vessels now routinely loading from ports as far south as Port Alma, near Rockhampton, a greater proportion of Brahman-influenced cattle are exposed to live export competition.
2022 autumn bull sales marketing
Stud managers wishing to promote their Autumn 2022 bull sales via ads on Beef Central’s genetics pages, daily email alert or home page early next year should contact business development manager Rod Hibberd at email@example.com or phone on 0437 870 127. Ad spaces are limited, so make contact early to avoid disappointment.
Soon after Christmas, work will also start on compiling the full list of 2022 Upcoming Bull Sales, appearing as a tabulated list in Beef Central’s genetics section. We remind studmasters to submit their 2021 autumn sale dates early next year (via this form), if they are not already provided by respective breed societies.
Great informative and interesting article; well done. How often will you be publishing this sort of analysis – every 6 months would be ideal !
I am from the Santa Gertrudis society in South Africa. I bring out a journal every year and would like to know if I could possibly use this article in it, this is a very informative piece of work.
Please let me know.
Help yourself, Martin – Editor