Production

2013 bull sales: Your complete guide to how each breed fared

Jon Condon, 25/11/2013

 

Average prices 2013, and variance from last year:

  • Angus                $4837 (-20.1pc)
  • Charolais            $4195 (-19.5pc)
  • Shorthorn           $4811 (-13pc)
  • Santa Gertrudis  $4618 (-13pc)
  • Brahman            $4415 (-2.7pc)
  • Droughtmaster    $4610 (-9pc)
  • Hereford             $4599 (-14pc)
  • Limousin            $3817 (-11pc)

 

In a clear reflection of difficult cattle market conditions caused by drought, live export market restrictions and other challenges, prices paid for stud and herd bulls at auction this year were well down for the eight largest beef breeds used across the Australian beef industry.

Data collected as part of Beef Central’s annual end-of-season summary show that without exception, average prices paid at auction for bulls throughout 2013 were back on last year’s figures. But perhaps surprisingly, the trend was no more exaggerated in those breeds that are most directly exposed to the northern drought and live export market circumstances.

As can be seen in this morning’s companion story, “2013 bull season: big drop in numbers sold for many breeds” the drought has also impacted on numbers of bulls sold via the auction ring in the past 12 months.

Beef Central’s annual survey is based on the eight largest breeds employed across the Australian beef industry – Brahman, Droughtmaster, Santa Gertrudis, Angus, Charolais, Limousin, Hereford and Shorthorn. Collectively, they represent an estimated 85 percent of all bulls sold at auction across the nation. 

As can be seen in the accompanying table, average price for most of the eight largest beef breeds fell by anywhere from 13 percent to +20pc this year.

Auction sale clearance rates, which can provide a good benchmark of supply/demand, also came under pressure. Many individual sales showing clearances back 10-20pc or more. Within those breeds that do record/supply the breed-wide clearance rate data, Charolais saw bull clearance rate drop from 93pc last year to 75pc in 2013, while Droughtmasters saw rates fall from 88pc last year to 76pc in 2013.

In cases where stud breeders elected to ‘meet the market’, they often suffered in average prices achieved, as a result.

Where do unsold bulls go?

It begs the question: what happens to that extra 10-15pc of bulls offered at auction that weren’t sold this year?

They’ve ended up in a variety of channels, it seems. Discussions with breed personnel and breeders themselves in recent days shows a percentage have already been meatworksed; some remain for sale in the breeders’ paddock, available as herd bulls, should the season break – albeit with a little more age; and others have already been sold as herd bulls, albeit at discounted prices in many cases.

Several large Bos Taurus and Bos Indicus bull breeders told Beef Central last week that they had anticipated poorer returns for bulls this year, and subsequently invested less money in pre-sale preparation and conditioning, in an attempt to preserve their net return a little.      

Results published in this report clearly indicate that seasonal and cattle price circumstances had a much greater bearing on price trends this year, than did any relative differences in popularity between breeds.

This year’s average price result for most breeds contrasts even more heavily against 2012, because last year produced solid price rises for virtually all breeds, on the back of two consecutive very strong seasons and a gradual build-up in breeder numbers, creating even greater demand.

In contrast with last year when no less than six large breeds averaged $5000 or better for bulls sold at auction, and included a number of all-time breed record averages, not one breed managed to crack a $5000 average this year. Most were back to prices not seen since 2010, or earlier.

For statistical purposes, there’s a couple of points worth noting in this year’s report:

  • There are still a couple of outlier late-season sales yet to be held, that are obviously not included in this report. They include a Charters Towers Santa Gertrudis sale in early December (65 bulls on offer), and the Wilangi Brahman sale, also in Charters Towers, offering 200 bulls. Neither are likely to greatly influence average pricing, based on current numbers, but will have some impact on numbers sold, as discussed in this morning’s companion story.
  • Several breed societies reported difficulty in getting details on a small number of additional sale fixtures from members/vendors (presumably because results were so poor). However the numbers of bulls involved was very small, and will not greatly influence overall trends.
  • As discussed below, the Hereford result is based on a sample of 57 sales, for which records have been sourced, whereas there were +80 sales recorded last year.
  • Shorthorn data was gathered by Beef Central, as the society has not collated results this year, being in transition into a new CEO.   

While no breed will be entirely satisfied with the results achieved for bulls in 2013, for what it’s worth, the Angus breed produced the best average price for bulls sold at auction this year across Australia ($4836).

Angus cattle topped the Australian beef industry’s annual bull auction sale price statistics for the first time last year, after gradually closing-in (price-wise) on other popularly-supported breeds over the past few years.

Running a close second to Angus this year was Shorthorn ($4811), but in reality, there was only $641 separating the best and worst performing breed this year, average price wise. That’s probably the tightest grouping seen since this data set was established in 2010.    

Here’s this year’s breed average price breakdown, brought to you exclusively by Beef Central:

 

Angus

Auction results for Angus bulls this year are fairly typical of the price trend seen across the industry. Angus stud breeders sustained a 20.1pc decline in average price this year, falling to $4837, from a record-high of $6069 in 2012.

Backgrounding that, however, the number of Angus bull sale fixtures across Australia this year leapt by 20, from 129 sales to 149, and overall bull numbers sold grew substantially (+ 466), to 7324.

Whether this year’s lower average price result is due in part to breed oversupply, or solely to broader market conditions is impossible to distinguish, but next year should provide some guidance to that, given a return to more normal seasonal conditions.

For the record, Angus bulls sold Australia-wide grossed $35.4 million this year, back about 15pc from $41.6m in breeder returns last year.

Charolais

Charolais bull sale trends at auction have followed a similar price trend as Angus this year.

Of the 2026 Charolais bulls offered through auctions in 2013, 1518 were sold for a total of $6.36 million, down from $7.1m last year. The average price of $4195 in 2013 was a 19.5pc decline from last year’s figure of $5210.     

Shorthorn

Based on data gathered from 14 individual sales across the country by Beef Central, average prices for Shorthorn bulls sold at auction fell more than 13pc this year, to $4811, from $5538 in 2012. Fewer bulls at a lower price meant the breed’s gross returns fell from $4.4 million last year to $3.4m in 2013.

Santa Gertrudis

The downwards trend was equally evident in Santa Gertrudis bull sale results this year, where prices were back 13pc: this year’s average price for bulls was $4618, down from $5310 last year. Note that the Santa result does not include a catalogue of 65 bulls to be offered at Charters Towers in early December, but that inclusion is unlikely to greatly affect the current overall result for average price.

Again, overall bull breeder revenue was dramatically smaller this year, due to lower average price and fewer bulls sold. Last year, Santa breeders’ income from bulls was $12.1 million, declining to $8.4m this year – a 30pc reduction.

Brahman

Arguably the breed most directly exposed to this year’s calamitous seasonal conditions across large parts of northern Australia, Brahman bulls averaged only moderately below their 2012 figure.

Bulls this year averaged $4415, only 2.7pc below last year’s figure of $4535. There could be a number of explanations for the relatively modest change. Just one is that the Brahman breed already had its check in bull pricing the year before, due to the severe market and cattle pricing impact that Indonesia’s restrictions on live export had had on the northern Australian cattle market.    

Total income for Brahman bull breeders from auction proceeds this year fell to $7.1 million, down from just over $10m last year – again, a 29pc fall in income.

Keep in mind, though, that the overwhelming majority of Brahman herd bulls used in northern Australia do not come via the auction ring, but via purchase directly out of the paddock. The figures published here do not reflect any of that trade, often said to be twice the size of the Brahman bull market transacted via the auction ring.

As advised above, Brahman figures do not include the 200 bulls to be offered at Wilangi later this month. That result is unlike to affect the breed’s average price much – perhaps lifting it a little – but will add substantially to numbers of bulls sold, covered in this morning’s second news item.  

Droughtmaster

Another breed heavily exposed to the extensive northern market, Droughtmasters followed the script set by other breeds this year, with an average price for bulls of $4610 – a 9pc decline on last year’s $5067.

Again, there was a big impact on bull breeder’s income, due to the combination of lower price and fewer bulls being transacted, falling from $11.4 million last year to $7.4m this year – a whopping 35pc decline. Similar to Brahmans, a large number of Droughtmaster bulls are bought out of the paddock each year, rather than via auction sales.   

Hereford

Herefords Australia was unable to provide comprehensive data on all bull sales completed this year, but provided results on a sample of 57 sales. That’s close to three quarters of last year’s total of 83 Hereford bull sales held, which certainly provides a large enough sample size on which to base some price comparisons.

Average price for Hereford bulls within the 57 sales recorded so far this year was $4599, down from the record high average of $5352 recorded last year. That’s back 14pc on last year.

Limousin

The Limousin breed also recorded a tough year in 2013, with an average price of $3817, down from $4263 last year, an 11pc decline in average return per bull. Breed income from auction bulls fell from $2.7 million to $1.83m this year.   

  • See this morning’s companion report on numbers of bulls sold this year. 

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