2012 bull season: Angus top breed price averages for first time

Jon Condon, 27/11/2012


Click on image at base of page for a larger viewAngus cattle have topped the Australian beef industry’s annual bull auction sale price statistics for the first time, after gradually closing-in on other popularly-supported breeds over the past few years.

Statistics compiled by Beef Central this week from breed society and other records have revealed that Angus bulls sold at auction across Australia in 2012 delivered an average price for their breeders of $5657.

That's a hefty 7.8 percent jump on last year, and about $120 better than second placed breed, Shorthorn ($5538).

Angus bulls have lifted in value by 44pc over the past five years, easily the best improvement of any large breed over that half-decade period. The latest yearly price increase came on top of an 11pc gain for Angus a year earlier.  

Beef Central’s annual survey is based on the eight largest breeds employed across the Australian beef industry.

The Angus average price improvement this year was not impacted by supply-side influences, however, with 6306 bulls passing through the auction system – virtually the same as 2011. That suggests continuing demand for Angus bulls was the major driver in the price result.

In contrast, Brahman results this year were somewhat disappointing, influenced heavily, Beef Central would argue, by the live export market crisis and other factors that will be discussed in detail tomorrow. This year’s Brahman bull average price of $4535 (down 1.2pc) came despite a 16pc decline in the number of bulls sold at auction.

As a general rule, Indicus-infused beef breeds did not perform as well as Taurus breeds this year, relative to prices achieved in 2011. Droughtmaster prices were back 5.1pc to $5067, but this was set against a 5pc increase in numbers sold, and a breed record average price set last year.

Not all breeds record auction clearance rates, which can provide a good benchmark of supply/demand. In the case of Droughtmasters, however, there was a 6pc decline from last year’s particularly strong 94pc auction clearance, to 88pc this year. Many other breeds are understood to have shown a softening trend in clearance rate.

The outlier, price-wise, among the Indicus infused breeds this year was Santa Gertrudis, which improved its average price 3.9pc compared with 2011, to $5453, while selling only 1pc less bulls than a year ago.

Shorthorn breeders enjoyed a substantial 17pc increase in average price this year, to post a figure of $5538, while Charolais was another big improver in percentage terms, recording an 11pc gain to $5181. This occurred despite a healthy 27pc growth in numbers sold during the year, suggesting the supply/demand equation for Charolais is still in positive territory.

Within the Taurus breed segment, Limousin was the only breed to register a decline in average price in 2012, down 5.6pc.

Some this year’s results masked earlier large gains. For example Herefords (horned and polled) recorded an average price gain of just 1.5pc this year to $5352, but that came on top of a substantial 21pc gain in value a year earlier.


Numbers sold show big variances 

Click on image at base of page for a larger viewBeef Central’s 2012 survey of bulls sold at auction reveals that the largest eight breeds were responsible for 18,719 bulls – a decline of just 70 bulls on last year, which was regarded as probably a record for auction bull turnover.

Individual breed numbers varied dramatically, however. 

But equally, ‘popularity contests’ between breeds in the form of direct comparisons in numbers of bulls sold at auction are irrelevant, for several reasons.

In the dominant tropically-adapted Brahman and Droughtmaster breeds, for example, an overwhelming majority of herd bulls used are not in fact sourced via the auction system, but out of the paddock, where no publicly-accessible records are kept. 

Credible estimates have suggested that up to two-thirds of all Brahman bulls employed in northern Australian herds are either bought from seedstock breeders via paddock sales, or home-bred by commercial cattlemen retaining their own herd bull producing nucleus stud herds. A similar circumstance applies to Droughtmasters, especially those used on more northern regions.

Based on anecdotal evidence from members, the Droughtmaster breed society estimates that paddock-sourced herd bull sales have actually risen this year, partly as a cost saving measure.  

All this means comparisons in terms of numbers sold at auction between the numerically largest breeds – Angus (6306), Hereford (3054), Droughtmaster (2241) and Brahman (2225) – do not provide any meaningful picture of the genetic makeup of the national beef herd.

Even the Charolais breed, credited with 1370 bulls sold this year at auction, estimates that a further 500 herd bulls (another 36pc) were sold out of the paddock this year.

Charolais was the big improver in percentage terms of bull numbers sold this year, registering a 27pc increase in turnover in 2011. As the table published on this page shows, all breeds registered growth in numbers, with the exception of Brahman (-16.2pc) and Santa Gertrudis (-1.22pc).

Other breeds to record growth in numbers included Droughtmaster (+5pc bulls sold), Shorthorn (+7.3pc), Hereford (+1.46pc) and Limousin (+12pc).

Angus numbers remained basically unchanged from a year earlier, at 6306.

The number of Angus bulls sold this year was still well back, however, from the all-time record turnover recorded by the breed in 2006, of 7544 bulls sold. Numbers have fallen gradually since that high-point. Worth noting, however, is the fact that the average price for Angus back in 2007 was just $3924, suggesting an element of over-supply might have been in play.

  • Tomorrow: What’s driven the trends in 2012 bull sales?



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