The 'doom and gloom' cattle market and seasonal outlook doesn't appear to be putting a huge dampener on the bull market, with early spring sales off to a solid start.
Australia's most expensive bull, the $360,000 Texas Thunderstruck, and the near-breed record $140,000 paid for Hereford bull Bowen Soloman S009 highlight the continued willingness to pay big bucks for outstanding performers, but it's the clearance rates and sale averages painting the true picture.
Nutrien north east livestock lead Colby Ede said early sales had made clear this year would be very much a buyer's market.
"Sale averages have eased, but there have been more numbers put into sales and they have been quite solid," Mr Ede said.
"The market has come back to a realistic level, in line with the current commercial climate.
"What we are going to see is an opportunity for buyers, who might not have been able to afford bulls last year or the year before, to really get in and get around some numbers at a realistic price."
An auctioneer's announcement of where a bull is headed will be the true showcase of seasonal conditions, with some parts of Queensland seeing a 'complete turnaround' compared to last year.
"There’ll be some strong support out of central and western Queensland where the rains fell, but southern Queensland is probably the area that hasn’t had the summer or winter rain," Mr Ede said.
"Buyers are still optimistic, though, and there’s still plenty of cattle out there, so we expect commercial producers to take advantage of the opportunity to source the best genetics they can get their hands on."
In New South Wales, this elevated demand has been clear in the sheer number of buyers in the stands in the first few weeks of the spring selling season.
Tamworth-based auctioneer Paul Dooley said the negative press around cattle prices and the season had vendors 'pretty worried' in the leadup to spring.
"I thought we might have some trouble with clearances and probably thought the averages might have been back a bit further than they have been," Mr Dooley said.
"But we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how strong the sales have been, how good the mood of the people has been, how big the crowds have been, and how we’ve been clearing the bulls."
While some sales have seen increased averages, most have been 'back 20 to 30% on last year'.
It's important to put that in context though, Mr Dooley said.
"That's still a pretty good result. The sales were averaging that two years ago and they were all records then and we were delighted."
Clearance rates also highlight that early concerns about the market were probably unwarranted.
"A month ago, we weren't thinking clearly, I don't think, because the herd rebuild is on track to reach its highest level since 2014, and most of that is cows," Mr Dooley said.
"For every 1000 cows, you need 30 bulls, so it’s probably not a surprise when you think about it like that, that we are selling the bulls."
The greater number of bulls on offer also means those looking to improve efficiency and productivity have the luxury to be more picky.
"When things are very buoyant and booming, you can sell anything and get good money, but tough times and a tough market makes people think about what they're doing," Mr Dooley said.
Overall, early results are extremely positive, but whether the market has the legs to go the distance to the end of spring will be the true test.