Big dry to limit SA's bull run

Opportunities expected at 2020 SA bull sales

Beef
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Recent soaking rain has lifted the spirits of many of the state's beef producers but many stud breeders are just hopeful of matching their 2019 averages, conscious of the drought-induced herd sell off.

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Recent soaking rain has lifted the spirits of many of the state's beef producers and seen the cattle market rally strongly in the past few weeks.

But, it is not expected to translate into big jumps in sale averages at on-property auctions later this month.

Stud stock auctioneers believe it may add some bidding interest but many stud breeders are just hopeful of matching their 2019 results, conscious of the drought-induced herd selloff in many areas.

Pastoral interest is again likely to be limited, impacting on the clearance rates of those sales dependent on northern buyers.

The dry 2019 has taken its toll with the long-running Diamond Poll Hereford Sale at Mundulla cancelled and the Walmona Santa Gertrudis Invitation Sale at Truro moving to late March.

Many lots in the upcoming sales will be on display at Stock Journal Beef Week which kicked off on Friday. Fifty-five studs are participating across the four days.

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Nutrien Livestock SA stud stock manager Gordon Wood expects 2020's selling season to be close to 2019 with the potential for modest rises in averages at some sales.

"Cow herd numbers are back across Australia, which is going to have an impact on the demand for bulls, but the rainfall (in SA) last week and some rain the week before that in the eastern states has changed the demand for cattle nationally quickly," he said.

"There is no doubt people want more cattle and breeding females to increase their numbers."

Mr Wood says buyers at SA sales will be "spoilt for choice of superior genetics" across the breeds, with nearly 900 bulls on offer during SA Angus Week alone.

Many of these lots are easy fleshing bulls capable of producing progeny to hit a range of markets rather than simply breeding bullocks or weaners, according to Mr Wood.

"The vast majority of stud cattle breeders are utilising estimated breeding values to give people the science behind the cattle as well as breeding phenotypically outstanding cattle," he said.

Spence Dix & Co director Jono Spence expects those studs with a strong client base in areas that have enjoyed at least an average season to fare the best but believes there will also be good value buying.

"It won't be the highest averaging year but those with a clientele base in the Mid South East and south should see reasonable clearances and particularly those producing calving ease bulls will see good demand," he said.

Mr Spence says theoretically, producers should have a "pretty healthy bull buying budget" but believes it could be a good year to change over older bulls.

"We didn't see cow prices come much below $5 a kilogram carcaseweight for very long throughout the year (2019) and the majority of weaner sales have been above expectations, and demand for cattle fitting into grass fattening programs has been strong," he said.

While falls had "taken the pressure off" for some pastoralists, he expected they will be looking for follow-up rain before replenishing their sire battery.

"A lot will not want to put a sale prepared bull up there in heat but will instead wait to see whether they get another rain and see where things are at in coming months," he said.

Elders stud stock manager Tony Wetherall says the rain has seen the market go from "strength to strength" and expects plenty of bidding wars at auctions that have a strong South East and western Vic client base, especially on the top end.

"The demand for restockers in other states is going to drive prices up so commercial people will be willing to pay potentially more money than last year to keep their breeding programs up."

Mr Wetherall agrees the one exception will be station buyers.

"In the drier areas, female numbers have diminished so much so I can't see the pastoral area operating too much, unless there is rain through that Alice Springs, NT, area," he said.

"We haven't seen them (pastoralists) operating for a couple of years and until we see them with more breeders that is not going to change."

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