From six-week-old weaners to $40,000 top sellers

Ben Nevis Angus sale hits $40,000 high price for bulls that stood drought test

Studstock
A very strong crowd of buyers attended the sale near Walcha on Wednesday. Photos: Lucy Kinbacher

A very strong crowd of buyers attended the sale near Walcha on Wednesday. Photos: Lucy Kinbacher

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Ben Nevis Angus sale brings sweet reward after years of droughts.

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When Walcha Angus breeders Erica and Stu Halliday weaned their stud bulls calves at just six weeks of age they weren't sure if they would get them through the lingering drought for sale.

But not only did they defy the odds and reach auction on Wednesday, the draft of genuine yearlings and 18-month-old sires commanded the attention of a large crowd of buyers for their consistency and impressive figures.

All but three of the 64 bulls sold under the hammer and there wasn't any struggle in clearing the bulls after to average $9081.

Only a year ago the bull yards were flanked by containment pens filled with the remnants of the Ben Nevis female herd as the Halliday family tried to hang on to more than 70 years of breeding and selection.

Happy vendors Erica and Stu Halliday kneel in front of Nutrien Studstock agent John Settree who bought the top price bull for Sam King, Bowmont Angus, Tatyoon, Victoria, with auctioneer Paul Dooley and the $40,000 Ben Nevis Quantico Q40.

Happy vendors Erica and Stu Halliday kneel in front of Nutrien Studstock agent John Settree who bought the top price bull for Sam King, Bowmont Angus, Tatyoon, Victoria, with auctioneer Paul Dooley and the $40,000 Ben Nevis Quantico Q40.

At least 75 registered bidders, mostly repeat clients, swarmed the green saleyard pens to look over the draft, up from 49 registrations on the books last year.

AuctionsPlus played just as big a role in the virtual space and accounted for at least 20 sires to buyers in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

Ms Halliday almost jumped on the bike and went for a drive as her nerves took over but she was quickly handed a job in the back yards and kept busy as the sale climbed above the $6553 average in 2019.

"These bulls were weaned at six weeks of age and we didn't even think we would have a bull sale let alone have the success we have had today," she said.

"We sold a number of bulls into studs again so it is beginning to be a bit of a thing for us, which is great leading into the female sale."

Baldridge Beast Mode B074 sons were again the flavour of the day with all 17 selling to average $13,058.

Prices peaked early for the third bull of the day and a Beast Mode son, Ben Nevis Quantico Q40.

He was secured for $40,000 by Sam King, Bowmont Angus, Tatyoon, Victoria with the assistance of Nutrien Studstock agent John Settree who outbid Glen Perrett, Glenrae Pastoral Co, Kingaroy, Qld.

The 18-month-old weighed 770 kilograms with an average daily gain of 1.32kg/day and scanned 107 square centimetres of eye muscle and 6.5 per cent intramuscular fat.

The highly profitable high indexing bull was in the top 10 per cent of estimated breeding values for growth while also being top 20 per cent for net feed efficiency.

Mr King had been losing bidder on Beast Mode sons at other sales and would put his new sire to use in the stud herd.

"We identified him as a Beast Mode son and were impressed with his mix of phenotype, genotype and data set backed by the good solid Ben Nevis program," Mr Settree said.

"It's his first time buying here. He hasn't seen the bull yet."

Another Baldridge Beast Mode son and genuine yearling Ben Nevis Qarma Q334 was also stud bound for Noonee Angus, Larral Lee, at $24,000.

He was born small, unassisted out of a two-year-old heifer, Ben Nevis Geranium N195, and grew into a mountain of muscle and softness with an average daily gain of 1.34kg/day.

Other successful studs included Urban Angus, Dungog, paying $11,000 for a Baldridge Beast Mode son, Ben Nevis Quigley Q337, who had a birth weight EBV of 2.5 and scanned the second highest for IMF and EMA in his heifers first calf contemporary group.

Choice Angus, Pallol, selected Ben Nevis Quanbean Q375, a son of Ascot Lion Heart for $12,000. The 554 kilogram bull was a full ET brother to the $28,000 Ben Nevis Nirvana who sold to Innesdale Angus in 2018.

In the grandstand the bulk buyer was MRH Enterprises, Glenmorgan, Qld, who secured five bulls to average $7200.

There were plenty of buyers selecting for their own end markets including Colly Creek Pastoral Company, Willow Tree, who offer their Angus product at Graze Willow Tree Inn.

They selected Ben Nevis Quad Q17 for $14,000 and Ben Nevis Quandry Q233 for $11,000.

First time Ben Nevis buyer Tim Hopkins purchased the $8000 Ben Nevis Quest Q75 along with a pen of 23 commercial heifers for for $1650/head.

Mr Hopkins has owned the Taree West Plaza Butchery for 13 years and the family were grain feeding up to 900 weaners for 100 to 120 days across their three properties in recent times. Back then they were supplying their own store and five others, about 25 bodies each week.

But the high price for young cattle this year has made it harder to secure stock and they are back to just supplying their own store six to eight bodies a week.

Having purchased a new property about 18 months ago Mr Hopkins was looking for future breeders that could one day breed stock for the butcher shop.

"We bought these to breed cattle for the shop eventually because at the moment it's hard to buy the weaners so if you can breed a few it will help," he said.

"We use about six to eight bodies a week so obviously I can't breed that many so I have to buy them in."

"I was looking for low birth weight...but I think any of the bulls here would be good. I had a budget and i went over it but they are just good cattle to start a herd with."

Mr Hopkins said they had gone from paying $200 for stock plus high grain prices to $1000 for weaners while feed remained high.

"We are hoping it may come back after they get a harvest this year," he said.

"We were running 900 head and that's about normal and now I struggle to buy weaners and I think I'm back to 150."

In total the 115 head of commercial heifers averaged $1793 topping at $1900 for four pens - two to Bassett Cattle Co, Roma, Qld, one to Peter Howard, Walcha, and another to a Gloucester buyer on AuctionsPlus.

Females will be back on offer in October for a mature cow dispersal, the first public auction of stud females since the stud started in 1947.

Erica Halliday said the interest had been overwhelming and they planned to undertake more female dispersals every three years.

"There are lots of closed genetics that are a bit of our secret cutting edge," she said.

The sale was conducted by Nutrien Boulton's Walcha with Paul Dooley as guest auctioneer.

Read the full report in The Land next week.

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