It was a 34-degree day at the 15th annual Fitzroy Crossing Bull sale, with red hot prices to go with it and several records tumbling in Western Australia’s Kimberley region on Friday.
The event overcame COVID-19 restrictions and changes to WA’s cattle import conditions, to crack $1 million in total sales, which is understood to be the highest-grossing bull sale in the state’s history.
Only months ago, the event was in doubt but the northern pastoral community rose to the challenge, with 174 premium bos indicus bulls trucked from some of the best studs in Queensland to go under the hammer.
Despite a smaller crowd as travel restrictions and COVID lockdowns grip the country, the event still managed to attract 35 bidders — from as far south as Gin Gin near Perth, and interstate buyers from the Northern Territory and Queensland.
The average price was $6,688.23, which was a record for the sale, and up more than $1,200 on last year.
The top price also set a record at $20,000 for a grey brahman from Bar Boot Brahmans, sold to a Queensland buyer over the phone in a competitive bidding war.
Northern Rural Supplies principal livestock agent Andrew Stewart said the strong prices this year were a reflection of a buoyant cattle market and the high-quality genetics on offer.
“And it’s just a relief that they trust us to do it and then we can come up with this sort of a response — the best sale on record for us [and] best average.
“A bull topped $20,000 and there was a lot of bulls making between $10,000 to $20,000 too.”
Record prices against the odds
Mr Stewart said after a challenging lead up to the event, the successful sale was a testament to the grit and determination of the northern pastoral industry.
“I think I’m most wrapped for the vendors because of what they’ve gone through to get to this stage,” he said.
Every year since the bull sale’s inception in 2006, Queensland breeder Jimmy Edwards has made the 3,500-kilometre trek to the sale from his stud at Barlyne Pastoral in Gayndah.
The long-term vendor and his son Johnny were able to travel in a convoy with a small crew of essential workers across two state borders and collected the cattle from all 12 participating studs along the way.
Mr Edwards said there was a sense of relief to see the event succeed against the odds, with the cattle trucks only making it across the WA border hours before parts of the Northern Territory went into lockdown.
“That’s why myself and [vendor] Darren Castle decided to go early to the Territory and hibernate there for two weeks so that we could get to Fitzroy before the sale in case the rest of the crew couldn’t get through.
“Johnny and Steve Farmer [vendor] and the truck drivers got through by the skin of their teeth from Katherine, so it all worked out in the long run but it was pretty hairy.
“None of the other vendors have come for that reason.”
Sale continues to grow
Mr Edwards said the Fitzroy Crossing Bull sale had survived a lot of challenges since it began 15 years ago — a live export ban, droughts, floods and a pandemic.
He added the event had grown from humble beginnings at the Brooking Springs cattle yards, into a blue-ribbon sale on the northern pastoral calendar.
“And I think the sale going from strength to strength every year is proving that and there seems to be more and more paddock bulls being sold.
“So it’s a huge thing for northern Western Australia and it’s a great little journey just to come over and catch up with them.”
Good genetics are key
The top price may have gone to a grey brahman this year but records were also broken across several breeds.
The next highest bid for the day came from billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s Harvest Road Pastoral group, which bought a By-Mingo droughtmaster for $14,500.
Other big buyers included Gina Rinehart’s Liveringa Beef Company and Fossil Downs, Gogo Station, Hooley Station, Warrawagine Cattle Company, Kimberley Aboriginal Pastoral Company, Barn Hill, Larrawa Station, Kilto Station, Mount House, Tanami Downs and Mandora Cattle Company to name a few.
Until this year’s sale, droughtmasters have claimed top price for the past seven years and continue to be highly sought after in the ring, with Queenslanders also continuing to grow in popularity.
Mr Stewart said it was more important than ever for Kimberley and Pilbara pastoralists to be given access to quality genetics with travel restrictions currently in place.
He said genetic enhancement of the herd was becoming a priority for the beef industry across the northwest and high cattle prices and a strong wet season was driving increased investment.
“It’s got to come from genetics, first and foremost, then you’ve got to have a season and then and then you’ve got to get a good price at the end.
“We’re having a perfect storm our way for a change.It’s been a long time coming [and] it’s a great feeling.”
A few challenges ahead
Mr Stewart said the Fitzroy Crossing Bull Sale committee would love to see the event expand but the biggest challenge going forward after the pandemic would be changes made to WA’s cattle import conditions.
The new regulations, which came into effect on July 1, have made the requirements around testing for Bovine Johne’s Disease more onerous and costly, leaving Queensland vendors thousands of dollars out of pocket.
“Not only for this sale, but it’s also going to be a deterrent for paddock sales going forward because it just comes down to commercial reality,” Mr Stewart said.
“The guys copped that for the short term but there needs to be some real dialogue around it going forward because we want the sale to continue.
“People will either say yes to it and take the risk of the additional costs because they’ve got clients over here they’ve been servicing for some time or they’ll just say it’s all too hard.
“If that stops, I think the industry as a whole will suffer in the long-term.”
Posted , updated