Beef prices and store cattle demand will underpin two months of bull sales as 80 studs in the North Island and 50 in the South Island hold auctions between late May and early July, plus private sales and paddock selections of bulls.
Vendors and agents have their hopes high, but the number of sheep and beef farms going to forestry recently is an unknown factor in achieving full clearances, they say.
Breeders have trimmed their catalogues and have no excuses for putting up lesser quality bulls, PGG Wrightson national genetics manager Callum Stewart said.
“Weaner and calf prices have shown good returns this year on investments in bull genetics.
“People used to say that lamb prices sell bulls, but now it’s the calf cheques that buy bulls.”
He is impressed by the high quality of the bulls shown in bull walks and their figures on Breedplan.
Land use changes in hill country farming have been a demand factor with bulls for the past three years, Stewart said.
PGG Wrightson northern genetics representative and auctioneer Cam Heggie said all bull vendors and their agents are wondering about the same thing.
“How many farms have we lost to forestry and what impact will that have on bull demand?
“Beef farmers also appear to have cut their cow numbers back a little, perhaps wary of prospects for hill country farming.”
Breeders have got the message and whittled back their bull offerings.
Heggie said catalogues in recent years have increased for some studs in an attempt to bring the average prices down a little, and there were bulls priced for all buyers – “but good bulls sold well, and then we passed more at the end of the book, so we didn’t achieve the objective”.
Demand for exotic bulls is linked to the dairy-beef part of the industry and therefore more relevant to yearling bull sales in the spring, Heggie said.
Carrfields auctioneer Neville Clark said east coast farms that had been sold for forestry going back two or three years may not have been destocked at the time, because of a lack of pine seedlings.
They had been leased back to the sellers and livestock operations had continued.
But this may be the year in which that reduction in bull demand hits home, he said.
“Bulls are in good condition and beef prices and weaner prices have been good.
“The number of farms sold to forestry is the unknown factor in bull demand.”
NZ Herefords president Gray Pannett, from Limehills stud at Millers Flat, Central Otago, said breeders are focusing on efficiency and productivity and using all the latest technology.
The need for suitable beef bulls over dairy cows to produce low-birthweight, fast-growing, strongly marked calves is a Hereford advantage.
Limehills started last year’s sales with a $42,000 bull purchased by Earnscleugh Station and an average of over $10,000 for 59 sold.
“The breeders are nervously awaiting the start of the sale season,” Pannett said.
Angus NZ president Mike Smith, from Kincardine stud near Queenstown, said the fundamentals for bull sales are still strong, including the demand for well-bred calves.
Reduced demand because of farm conversions to forestry would be offset by the trend towards raising more bobby calves for dairy-beef, which Smith called “exciting times” for breeders.
His catalogue for the May 24 auction features two sons of Rainmaker and a three-quarter brother to Rainstorme R25, which sold for $81,000 last year.