THE DOVETAILING of widespread superb seasonal conditions, record money for commercial cattle and the growing value being placed on genetics as a profit-driver has heralded a new era for the seedstock producer.
Massive rises in bull sale averages, dizzying top-price levels and never-before-seen clearance rates across the board have set a new level and the word is 2022 will see more of the same.
Averages across all breeds have jumped between 25 and 70 per cent year-on-year to set new all-time records. So too the top price paid for bulls.
In the most extreme case, the Angus breed, that top price literally doubled - and that was off a very solid record of $140,000 to start with.
Further, clearance rates across all breeds were at, or very close to, records. One hundred percent clearance was a common mark beside sales.
However, it is the comparison between this year and 2016 that really tells the story, those with decades in the game under their belt say.
That year was similar to now, with heavy restocker activity and herd building in full swing. Strong commercial prices were coinciding with a good season. It was the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator's last peak prior to the current run.
It was, of course, cut short by drought and not near as long-lived as today's heady times but that period had set a benchmark.
The fact that bull averages have jumped so significantly on 2016 rates - the most extreme case being very close to doubling - says 2021 results have gone beyond the typical pattern. This year's results are more than cyclic.
Welcome to the new normal for sire value.
Two of the most experienced minds in this arena, beef breeding consultant Don Nicol, Breedlink, and executive officer at the Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association Alex McDonald, said the seedstock industry had never seen anything like the results of 2021.
"The upper limits of what people were prepared to pay for commercial bulls this year must have been a severe shock to the system for most producers," Mr Nicol said.
"But they adapted quickly. As the bull season progressed people realised they had to pay the rates to be in it or they would be in a situation where they could not go forward.
"Underpinning all of this is a general widespread optimism about the future of the beef industry for Australia.
"We are now competing directly with the big South American producers and we are beating them on quality.
"That makes our future look very good and everyone wants to go forward in beef."
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Mr McDonald said the combination of bull numbers being low post-drought and a fantastic season where 'every female that can be found is being joined' pushed demand at stud sales to red-hot levels.
Seedstock producers were tipping a big year - and thus bull numbers were up - but the results went beyond expectations, he said.
"Studs have to think three years out. They spent more on keeping core breeders during the drought knowing the pay-off would come," he said.
Both men, along with most breed society bosses, believe the 'new level' will continue - if not lift higher - next season.
With the tight supply of commercial and feedlot cattle keeping upward pressure on that market, the money and demand will be there for good bulls, they said.
The Angus breed recorded the largest hike in the average price paid for bulls this year over last year - a whopping 69pc. The 2021 $13,776 average was also almost double the 2016 figure.
The record highest price paid for an Angus bull was broken twice.
Angus Australia chief executive officer Peter Parnell said reports from members suggested sales were made mainly to repeat buyers who were obviously replenishing following the liquidation of bulls during drought years, but also to new customers indicating greater expansion of the breed in the industry.
"Given the forecast of the continuation of current prices received for commercial cattle and maintained industry confidence, it is possible that the high bull sale averages seen in 2021 will be maintained during 2022," he said.
"However, in the longer term the dynamics of supply and demand, and the increased number of bulls likely to be offered to the market in response to high prices, mean it is likely average prices may recede somewhat in 2023 and beyond."
The Shorthorn breed average price increase wasn't far behind, jumping 58pc, and in 2022 four Shorthorn studs have already announced they will hold their first ever on-property sale.
Shorthorn Beef president Chris Thompson, Bayveiw Shorthorns at Yorketown in South Australia, said the breed had now emerged as a clear alternative to Angus.
Queensland Brahman breeders were increasingly using Shorthorn as a cross and the results they were having was driving significant increases in demand, he said.
In the Brahman breed, 17 bulls sold for more than $100,000 in the auction system and private sales were also finalised in six-figure territory.
Brahman breeders association general manager Anastasia Fanning said those were figures never before seen at such high volume.
The Santa Gertrudis record top price lifted $30,000 to $150,000.
President Ian MacCue, Wilga at Bellata in NSW, said 13 Santa sales sold bulls in excess of $100,000 - something that had never before happened.
The breed's gross sale value was up $11m on last year.
Much of that would be reinvested into seedstock businesses on everything from improved on-farm infrastructure to building up numbers, Mr MacCue said.
MORE bulls on offer across most breeds did nothing to stem demand, with clearance rates across the board red hot.
Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society president Nigel Eylward, Eylwarra Sands at Bangham in South Australia, said it was the clearance rates that excited seedstock producers the most because it effectively means more of their genetics filtering through the industry.
Murray Greys made solid steps into Queensalnd and the Kimberleys in Western Australia this year, he said.
In fact the top-priced bull went into a Queensland Brahman herd.
"We know we have to be able offer big numbers of bulls to meet northern demand moving forward - that's the challenge we've set," he said.
Limousin breeders believe sustainability credentials are already factoring into bull buying and contributed to their strong results this year.
Society president Chris Meade, Pelican Rise Limousins at Colac in Victoria, said as people get more serious about carbon footprints, traits like yield, feed conversion rates and lower fat content will be sought more and more.
He said 2021 saw a particular resurgence in demand for Limousin females in northern NSW and southern Queensland, with temperament, softness and homozygous polled traits sought.
Braford society president Dan Galloway, Glenlea in Banana, Queensland, said the widespread rain had meant all core buyers were now back online and trying to rebuild as quickly as possible.
That was expected to underpin high prices for bulls for some time, he said.
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