Millions of dollars worth of herd-improving sires have been sold at auction in SA during a busy February of bull sales but plenty still remain unsold in the paddock.
But, for 12 on-property sales it was a year they would rather forget, selling less than half of their offerings, with the very limited pastoral interest a major factor.
Spence Dix & Co director Jono Spence said there would be "mixed feelings" among vendors with some well-established studs very satisfied with near-total clearances and strong averages, while others had a "tough time".
"If you were a stud that put the work in, following up with buyers and had a diverse client base you were probably pleasantly surprised, but if you were a new stud with a shallow client base or one reliant heavily on pastoral orders there would be sales that would not have met cost of production," he said.
Mr Spence said there was "no quick fix" for these studs while female numbers across Australia remained low.
"In the past many of these studs have enjoyed the spin-offs from pastoral orders but it is interesting to note that in the South East for the number of cows being run we are saturated with seedstock producers," he said.
He said buyers still chased the bulls they wanted with some top prices comparable to 2018 and one of their clients, Bull Oak Well Angus stud, Pinnaroo, achieving a $17,000 stud record.
Landmark stud stock manager Gordon Wood said many of the Angus sales and early Hereford sales had exceeded expectations given the "struggling season" and falling cattle numbers, but some of the later sales on the calendar had faltered.
The shrinking vealer market also impacted on some European breed clearances.
"Ten years or more ago there were a lot of Hereford-Friesian and Angus-Friesian females joined to Limousins or Simmentals to produce a 380 kilogram to 420kg vealer but now we are seeing more purebred (British breed) herds and people happy to produce a 300kg to 400kg steer and surplus heifer replacements to sell into store sales for backgounders and feedlotters," he said.
Mr Wood noted some buyers had capitalised on the great value for money, adding an extra one or two bulls to their orders.
"The first general rain we will see a considerable lift in the beef market with demand for mated females going through the roof, who knows what prices may be in store for 2020 bull sales?" he said.
Elders SA stud stock manager Tony Wetherall said the clearance of nearly 750 bulls during SA Angus Week had been exceptional.
The strong demand for black Simmentals was another highlight.
"The Poll Hereford sales were always going to be a bit of a struggle with the way the pastoral country is and some of the Limousin sales did (struggle) too as herds move back to not doing as much crossbreeding," he said.
Mr Wetherall said the season's high price bulls generally had a good combination of Breedplan figures with high eye muscle, high growth, moderate birthweight and positive fat.
Many studs that passed in bulls had not given up hope of northern rains and were retaining them for at least a couple of months.
"Especially in the Poll Herefords there are a lot of May-June (2017) to August-drops so they are still young enough," he said.