How can anybody pay $96,000 for an unregistered herd bull?

Jon Condon, 03/02/2016

HOW can anybody pay $96,000 for an unregistered herd bull?

It’s a legitimate question that’s doing the rounds of the northern beef industry today, following yesterday’s news that an unregistered Grey Brahman made what is likely to be a world-record price for any bull sold without registration or full pedigree details.

Australian record HB

The natural poll Grey Brahman set a world record for an unregistered herd bull yesterday when he sold for $96,000. His sire was Lancefield D Don Deablo 4700 (Sc), but his dam was not identified in the catalogue.

The cynics amongst us have already suggested that a truckload of herd bulls may arrive at the buyer’s yards one day soon, bearing the same brand – but with no invoice attached.

It may be an easy, if lazy conclusion to draw, but as usual, there’s often more behind the headline than meets the eye.

For Beef Central’s readers in southern Australia, it may seem unfathomable that unregistered cattle, regardless of their phenotype*, could make so much money. How is it possible?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that the northern Australian bull breeding market is vastly different to that in the south, where Angus or Hereford bulls sold without registration are unheard of.

In the north, it’s a numbers game. Genetics is important, but unless a commercial cattle breeder has the physical population of bulls to serve a very large cow herd – often spread over vast distances – registration of an animal adds little value. It’s estimated that at least two thirds of all Brahman (and possibly Droughtmaster) bulls run in northern Australia are not registered cattle. Cost, and simplicity are part of the reason for that.

It’s not that long back when herd bulls sold at major North Queensland sales in Townsville and Charters Towers often produced similar average prices to registered bulls. Certainly this correspondent witnessed it during the 1990s.

There’s a significant population of bull breeders in northern Australia who specialise in breeding herd bulls only – sold mostly out of the paddock, in large lines. They still aim for continuous genetic improvement through sire purchases, but do not register their purebred females. Often the cows are run in multiple sire, rather than single sire herds. Some of those are later being DNA tested to identify a specific sire, at least. Many herd bulls aren’t fed before sale. All this helps keep costs down.

The vendors of yesterday’s record-setter, Kenilworth 4899, are a good example. None of the calves produced in Kelvin and Margaret Maloney’s Kenilworth Brahman bull breeding herd at Mt Coolon are registered.

Yesterday’s buyers of the record-setter, Georgetown (North Queensland) Brahman breeders Brian and Cindy Hughes sell both registered and herd bulls, but Brian Hughes said herd bulls was a growing part of their business – now representing close to 50pc of bulls sold.

It’s significant to note that the Hughes’s themselves sold a registered poll Grey Brahman bull only three lots before they bought yesterday’s record-setter during the second day of the Big Country Brahman Sale in Charters Towers.

The price? $48,000. The buyer? The Curley family, from Gypsy Plains near Cloncurry. The Curleys themselves are also dedicated herd bull producers. It demonstrates the depth of buying demand for elite bulls presently from breeders of non-registered cattle.

Horn status big factor

Apart from his visual appeal as an exceptionally well put-together Grey Brahman was the fact that the record-setter, Kenilworth 4899, was DNA tested as a homozygous poll. Natural polled Grey Brahmans exhibiting bone, muscling and conformation of this quality are always in high demand.

Added to this, the Hughes family is expanding their poll Brahman breeding operations at Lanes Creek, purchasing the entire Willtony polled Grey Brahman herd from Theodore last year. That decision is largely in response to signals from commercial bull buyers who want more polled cattle.

Significantly, the Hughes’s own registered bull sold yesterday for the top registered bull price of $48,000 was also a natural Poll.

Semen sales prospect

While semen sales are typically restricted to registered cattle, there’s nothing stopping the Hughes’s from selling semen from an unregistered bull like this if they choose to. There’s certainly been occasional, if rare examples in the past.

The record-setter is heading straight for semen collection this week. The Hughes’s plan to use him in AI programs within their own herd, as well as natural matings, and have not dismissed the prospect of semen sales to outsiders.

If semen is collected for later sale, a well-informed Brahman industry observer suggested it was likely to be sold as a “low-price, but high volume” semen bull targeted at commercial cattle breeders as well as herd bull producers.

“If people wanted to access a polled-gene bull with outstanding conformation, a bull like this would be a good vehicle to do that,” the contact said.

Pastoral companies or somebody with a fair wedge of cows for AI could be interested in some very large volumes of semen, by industry standards, for a bull like this. It could be quite commercially attractive.”

Northern cattle market confidence reaches fever-pitch

Another undeniable factor behind yesterday’s record was a background of all-time record prices for live export cattle in North Queensland and fever-pitch loading activity this week through the nearby Port of Townsville. Feeder steers for Indonesia are currently making unprecedented prices around 330c/kg liveweight ex Charters Towers, and 385c/kg this week in Darwin.

Brian Hughes said within his own herd bull clientele, few commercial buyers were ‘chasing’ registrations as a prerequisite in their purchases.

“They’re not worried about it. It’s more what they see that’s important. They trust us to keep the genetic improvement going in the parent lines,” he said.

“We’re confident we’ll recoup the purchase price over time. The polled females he leaves behind alone will add considerable value.”

“There’s certainly a lot of confidence evident in the northern cattle market,” Australian Brahman Breeders Association’s John Croker said this morning.

“It’s indicative of the fact that breeders are looking for good quality polled bulls, particularly. They’re not that easy to breed, and they’re not that easy to buy,” Mr Croker said.

Brian Hughes said despite that competitive element, he was surprised that he had had to pay so much for yesterday’s record-setter.

“But there were obviously others out there with a keen interest in him for the same reasons,” Mr Hughes said.

Underbidder on yesterday’s record setter was Tony Hayne, from Northern Vet Services in the Northern Territory.

The previous Australian record for an unregistered herd bull of any breed was $42,000, paid in 2005 by Paul Fenech from FBC Brahmans for an Elrose bull bred by Roger and Lorina Jefferis. Live exports was performing strongly at that time also.


* Phenotype (from Greek phainein, meaning “to show”, and typos, meaning “type”) is the composite of an organism’s observable characteristics or traits. Phenotype is distinct from genotype – the genetic variation between animals, which cannot be easily ‘observed.’




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  1. susan dennis, 07/02/2016

    I have read the reader comments about the sale of Waverley Noel de Manso and am shocked at the suggestion of a rigged sale. As a long time follower of the Brahman History in this country I would like to add the following facts as I have been told by older breeders of that era.
    Waverley Noel de Manso was sold in 1969 at Gracemere for the record price of $56,000 to Walla stud and Stanley Park stud. Noel died at Walla stud many years later. Amongst my history collection I have copies of the pre-sale photos and advertisement for the Waverley Bulls for that sale, the photos of the sale results,all taken from Queensland Country Life papers at the time. I also have a copy of a small write-up about the death of Waverley Noel de Manso. I know the man who worked at Waverley during the years of the breeding of Noel and the other high priced Waverley bulls and he assured me the sale were genuine. Neither stud ever registered any cattle out of Waverley females later to my knowledge.
    I feel some reader comments about the sale of the $96,000 bull are very wrong as these two breeders are part of the heart and soul of the Brahman industry and deserve more respect than that.
    However I have two questions about the $96,000 bull. Can he be Registered and can we trace his full breeding? I hope someone can answer these questions for me.

    John Croker from the Australian Brahman Breeders Association has informed Beef Central that the $96,000 herd bull could, indeed, be registered. But to do so would require a DNA test to confirm both his sire (already known) and his dam – and provided his dam is a registered female with the ABBA. Editor.

  2. Rod Moore, 05/02/2016

    Dear Editor, I aint No cynic – remember this incident and many others like it. As Beth Streeter commented [comments as such should’nt appear in an article on such an informative web site] I totally Disagree this is why Beef Central is informative after all readers of Beef Central also have extended memories and most are not involved in Breed Politics – Editor Keep it coming- openiness that is.

  3. Rod Moore, 05/02/2016

    Re Beth Streeter and Editors Comment– I, [Rod Moore] was the person whom made the comment [ see above] re the sale at Auction – Gracemere Brahaman Sale of Waverley Noel De Manso for a record $56,000 in mid 1960’s, that 24 Head of the Same Waverley genetic plus 6 cows in calf went in the same semi via Brisbane [semen collection Govt station – where Noel was delivered], some 20,000 vials – not straws- were also collected and distributed to Professor Stone and Waverley Stud in some kind of a split. Years later I used some of the M8M vials in a AI programme Ian Tucker,Ken Rowan and Lloyd Donaldson were involved in. Poor form you suggest I would be so ‘bold’ to suggest this ever happened and in doing so I attacked the integrity of both Buyer and Seller- what about the Integrity of the Auctioneer – That bloke caried that ‘punt’ stigma with his-self for the remainder of his working life – for what?? PS Noel De Manso was an emergency kill at Moreton, as were many other Bulls from that semen collection station during 1966/67 with suspected Blue Tongue virus – all were Negative. To my belief the only reported Blue Tongue possible outbreak in Aus since before 1900. Have a look at the Blue Tongue Buffer zone, Protected Zone and Suspect zone on your http://www.- Beth, it has the ability to impact on your cattle venture should Brahaman genetics be Live exported to say China and that part of the world. Noel De Manso certainly left a Legacy – for all the wrong reason – he never bred on!!! rgds Rod Moore

  4. May Smith, 04/02/2016

    I agree with Marg Will. These breeders of polled Brahmans put a lot of work into their selection and breeding program and prior success can attest to this. I am sure their aim is to produce animals based on quality rather than to rely totally on pedigrees which I acknowledge is important, but who knows what the pedigree would look like had a record been available. Would it have made any difference to the price?? Maybe, but surely we should be bidding mostly on the standard of the animal presented rather than entirely on the pedigree.

  5. Beth Streeter, 04/02/2016

    Whilst many people would wonder why anyone would pay that much money for an unregistered bull, the article does explain well the reasons why polled cattle are attracting such a premium and how large numbers of polled bulls are in demand in the north with no registrations required. However I think it was poor form to even add the paragraph about the vendor sending a truck load of Bulls to the buyer. As far as I’m concerned it is an attack on the integrity of the buyer and the seller and shouldn’t appear in an article on such a usually informative website.

    Thanks for your comment regarding the $96,000 sale bull, Beth. Unfortunately we think you have misinterpreted the references you mention in the article.

    Nowhere does it suggest that “there is a truckload of herd bulls attached to the deal.” It simply states that “some cynics amongst us” might draw that conclusion. Indeed Beef Central received such comments the morning after the sale, from readers you probably know in North Qld. We were simply pointing out the fact that such extreme results almost inevitably attract such comment. Being involved in the stud industry, I’m sure you have heard them yourself.

    The article goes to considerable lengths to point out exactly why it was likely to be a legitimate and genuine sale. i.e. demand for polled factor, demand for quality bulls from herd bull buyers, current strength of the northern live export market etc.

    We’d encourage you to go back and re-read the item, so you can see how the reference you mention is clearly put in context. Editor.

  6. Charles Weyman - Jones, 04/02/2016

    I don’t see problem with it. Homozygous polled, good type. At least the breeders did not make up the pedigree, they would be good people to buy off.
    DNA testing to prove he is homozygous is more important and beneficial to the cattle industry. His birth date would probably be accurate as well!

  7. Paul D. Butler, 03/02/2016

    In the U.S. we WOULD be cynical about such a sale………..for the simple reason that unless you are directly involved in the deal…… will never know if the money is real money paid.

  8. Chris Andersen, 03/02/2016

    If Brian and Cindy Hughes paid $96 000 for the bull, someone else must have considered he was worth $95k!

  9. Rod Moore, 03/02/2016

    Can any cattle producer pay $56,000 for Waverley Noel De Manso way back in the mid 1960’s.
    The 6 stud cows,last years 6 weaners, this years 6 weaners, 6 calves at foot and 6 females tested positive in calf from the same stud to the same purchaser back then certainly said YES yet alone the PUBLICITY the sale of Noel De Manso could never be valued. Did the losing bidder get the same offer? NO – he did not own any country let alone females – he was an agent being paid $1885.00 per year for doing what he was told!!!

  10. Marg Will, 03/02/2016

    We live in exciting times when DNA technology can provide such critical genetic date rather than a piece of paper!

  11. Barb Dwyer, 03/02/2016

    Isn’t A25’s taxidermised head sitting above somebody’s fireplace? Or am I getting confused with King Ranch’s foundation sire, Monkey, back in Waxahachie, Texas?

    I think it’s Monkey, Barb. Editor.

  12. David Hill, 03/02/2016

    Those that have knowledge of the Santa Gertrudis breed in Australia would remember what impact a herd bull can have on a breed, it is my understanding that Elgin Downs A25 was sold as a herd bull in the late 1970’s, there was an extended period where a lot of bulls and high priced ones at that had A25 in their pedigree. I am sure there were a lot of cynics around then as well, even though he himself didn’t make a lot of money.

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