SIGNS producers are looking beyond the drought were evident at the big two-day bull sale in Rockhampton this week, the Droughtmaster National, where commercial producers contributed heavily to the cracking bidding pace.
Many spoke about ensuring they were on track to capitalise on what they see as a fundamentally solid business when the season finally starts to co-operate.
Investing in genetics was seen a vital component and top of the trait want list at Rockhampton was weight-for-age, structural soundness and the ability to lay down enough fat cover to hit higher-value market specifications.
The fact the trade-in situation to replace bulls is geared towards providing the funds to invest in new sires was also a driving factor behind a sale result that by all accounts exceeded expectations.
Prices for older bulls through several channels is particularly good at the moment, producers said.
Live export prices out of Townsville and Charters Towers are around 310 cents per kilogram for lighter bulls and the heavier weight bulls that have been out doing stud duties are commanding 280-290c/kg.
For those that exceed the live export weights or don't meet requirements, processors are still paying a healthy 240 to 255c/kg.
That no doubt is lifting the ability to buy new bulls but there were numerous factors at play at Rockhampton.
Elders stud stock manager for Queensland Michael Smith pointed to the relatively large number of bulls withdrawn - 120.
"Some of our clients opted to take money offered in the paddock because they thought it would be a tough sale," he said.
"The relative lack of supply certainly would have helped prices.
"Smarter operators are aware that while they might not need bulls right at the moment, big numbers of bulls have been culled so there is no big supply of two to three-year-old bulls standing around in paddocks.
"We've put a lot of young bulls onto boats this year, bulls that normally would be held back and sold come the end of this year and early next year."
The National saw 88 per cent of the bulls offered over the two days knocked down to buyers, delivering a $3.795 million gross for the 413 bulls sold. The average on both days exceeded $9000 and the overall top price was $100,000, with numerous bulls making over $20,000.
Mr Smith, who has been involved in the big Droughtmaster event for the past 15 years, said judging from the sales up until last week, most agents would have considered a 75pc clearance and $7000 average an acceptable result.
"There was definitely an element of people looking to the future," he said.
"The fundamentals of this game are right.
"Yes it's turbulent and there is uncertainty globally with what is happening with competitors but demand for Australian beef is strong.
"People in beef have been rewarded. Cattle markets have been a heck of a lot stronger than what they should have been with what's been going on season-wise. That has to provide optimism."
While the fertility purchase barrow, wheeled by the desire to have more calves on the ground, was chugging along solidly, most around the ring at Rockhampton felt weight-for-age still ruled.
Vendor Brian Heck, Bryvonlea, felt buyers were predominantly chasing growth, good eye muscle area, length and width.
"That weight-for-age is so important because turning off stock at two to three years is where the profit is," he said.
Mr Smith said it's always horses for courses depending on where an operation is set up but fertility did not appear to have overtaken growth yet (as a bull purchase driver) because ultimately people get paid on kilograms of beef produced.