The hard commodity boom is most definitely over, but for some farmers it is a different story as they see their best returns in decades.
Australian cattle prices have climbed 50 per cent since 2014, and Angus beef is leading the herd.
“A lot of interest this year, more than other years,” said John Woodruff, owner of Witherswood Angus, based near Glenrowan in north-eastern Victoria.
“I suppose the industry is buoyant at the moment and breeders are getting good prices for their stock that they are turning off, allowing them to pay fair money for good bulls.”
Witherswood Angus held its annual sale on Wednesday, putting 70 one-year-old bulls up for sale, mostly to other breeders.
The timing could not be better, thanks to the run-up in Australian beef prices over the past two years.
“I like to call it a correction, it’s where it need to be, it’s where it ought to be,” said Jim Bruce, a stud stock manager with Elders.
“It makes us more equivalent to other production bases in the world. Our product has been quite cheap from a global perspective.”
Prices fail to top $150,000 record set in September
Witherswood snared an average of $5,600 for its 70 bulls, and a top price of $21,000 on the day.
But that is well short of the Australian record.
John Woodruff is part of a syndicate that paid $150,000 for one Angus bull in September, and he bought another for $80,000 at the same auction.
“It’s a vote of confidence in what I see going ahead for the industry,” he told the ABC.
“The bull had wonderful phenotype (observable traits) and something that we feel is missing in the breeding in the Angus society.”
While breeders like John Woodruff have worked hard over many years to improve the stock, they say the Angus Society has also done a good job of marketing the product, making Angus the beef of choice in many restaurants and supermarkets.
However, it has been a dry 18 months in south-eastern Australia, and farmers are counting on good spring rains.
“There is always a negative in farming, there are so many factors we rely on,” said Ross Carrington, from Seven Creeks Estate in Euroa.
“The weather has been very difficult in the last 12 months.”
Cattle farmers call for more government support
While Angus breeders are starting to see good prices for their cattle, some farmers are feeling unloved in Canberra.
In this federal election year John Woodruff wants both major parties to do more for the industry.
“I would like to see both parties step forward into rural,” he said.
“They have called rural the poor relation and they have never done enough to allow rural to step ahead with enough speed to take part in the growing market.”
Ross Carrington said there also needs to be better oversight of foreign investment.
He wants more support for the next generation to invest in Australian agriculture, with the average age of farmers close to 70.
“The interest is there, now the commodity prices have come up the business case for banks lending to young people to get into farming is getting better, and I think that should be preserved.”