IT'S been a year of great contrasts in the Australian beef industry.
Despite the high Australian dollar, a shaky global financial situation and sluggish export demand, many Australian beef producers are focused on reinvesting in genetics and rebuilding herd numbers.
In its latest industry review, Meat and Livestock Australia said the nation's beef herd was in a "rebuilding phase" on the back of better seasonal conditions, a positive long-term profile for returns from beef and higher prices during the first half of this year.
During the past financial year, the Australian cattle herd is estimated to have recovered 3.6 per cent, to 27.5 million head.
Assuming better returns (largely from export beef markets) and average seasonal conditions, the Australian cattle herd is expected to increase to 29.7 million head by 2015 or 11.9 per cent higher than the recent low point recorded last year, MLA reported.
That's an extra 3.15 million females gained over five years, which will greatly increase the demand for quality bulls, according to industry leaders.
Already, some studs have posted resounding results this year.
Te Mania Angus set its highest-ever average price of $7200 for a complete clearance of 95 bulls sold at Walgett in NSW earlier this month, an indication that buyers were keen to reinvest increased returns in leading genetics, according to director Tom Gubbins.
"A feature of the sale was the strength of the return buyers and their confidence, particularly in the face of the recent controversies in the northern cattle market," Tom said.
The $17,000 top-priced sire was a son of Te Mania Berkley, which also sired Emperor E43, sold for a whopping $91,000 at the stud's southern sale earlier this year (pictured on cover).
Angus Australia chief executive Peter Parnell said the improved season had given stud sales a boost in autumn and would continue to do so through spring.
"There is a lot of interest in Angus bulls from northern clients and averages, across the board, have increased relative to last year," Mr Parnell said.
"The season is the overriding factor and an increase in Bos Taurus genetics, particularly Angus, in northern Australia is certainly helping."
The greatest increase in demand for Angus genetics had come from northern NSW through to central Queensland, where there was now a shortage of Angus bulls, he said.
"Producers are looking to infuse Angus genetics for a better MSA (Meat Standards Australia) compliance and to inject some fertility into their herds."
Increasingly, Angus catalogues were showing more scan information for intra-muscular fat and eye muscle area, as well as breedplan data and the Angus HD50 gene marker test released last year, providing much greater depth of data.
Herefords Australia chief executive Warren Clark said increased demand for Hereford cattle to supply overseas markets with live heifers and the European Union with boxed beef was already translating to higher sales.
"Austrex just shipped 2500 Herefords (to Russia). They are taking females out of the system which is also increasing demand," Mr Clark said.
"We've got studs restarting stud sales because they can see a turnaround in Herefords."
The Australian dollar was having little effect on demand from the EU, he said.