THE all important shades of grey came into play at the Melaleuca on-property Murray Grey sale when a dark bull topped the offering at $9250 and other dark colours were unusually favoured over their silver counterparts.
Murray Grey breeders have generally been prejudiced against dark bulls and top price buyers Michael McGuire and son Jake, Manypeaks, have used it to advantage in the past to get cheaper bulls.
But this year the outstanding Melaleuca Jameson J74 caught everyone's eye.
Jameson was by the well proven sire Melaleuca Alby A211 and was one of only two bulls by Alby on offer.
Melaleuca stud master Richard Metcalfe, Manypeaks, described it as a terrific carcase bull that was developing an outstanding hindquarter.
Its excellent make and shape was combined with the best set of weight gain figures in the catalogue.
Jameson recorded a comparatively high +6.8 birthweight estimated breeding value (EBV) and had +34, +55 and +76 for respective 200, 400 and 600-day weight EBVs.
Jake McGuire said the figures pointed to good early growth and after eight years buying bulls from his near neighbour they were confident in their purchase.
The men run about 350 breeders joined to Angus and Murray Grey bulls and, as the calves were turned off to the Jarraluka feedlot, colour was of no importance.
It was not the case for stud breeder Barry Macdonald, Winton in the New Zealand South Island, who was at the sale on one of his regular biennial contact visits to WA.
He did not buy for himself, but said if Jameson had been a silver bull he would have bought it.
Instead he was entrusted with the task of buying a sire for Tasmanian stud breeder Charles Wallace, Woodbourn, Cressy, Tasmania, and chose another dark grey bull in Melaleuca Jackhammer J115.
The smooth, deep bodied Jackhammer was by Melaleuca Ecuador E267 and had a particularly good topline with a moderate set of EBVs showing +21, +36 and + 56 for 200, 400 and 600-day weights, +3.8 for birthweight, +4 for milk, +0.1mm for rib fat and +0.8 for retail beef yield.
The $6000 third highest price was set by another dark grey bull, Melaleuca Jaeger J10, by Melaleuca Guya, which went to new buyers Steven and Desrae Lee-Steere, Wingalup Grazing Co, Boyup Brook.
They had been attracted to Melaleuca after hearing good reports from the stud's field day and when they arrived with their local stock agent Jamie Abbs they were pleased to find a good line of bulls that were presented well without being overdone.
Colour was not a factor in their decision, with Steven Lee-Steere saying previous grey bulls used in their 220-head breeding herd tended to throw a good percentage of silver calves.
Landmark auctioneer John Wirth said he'd been selling cattle for a long time and had never seen the market as buoyant as its present level.
He said despite the good market conditions buyers were careful in their spending.
The final tally showed a strong result with 29 bulls sold under the hammer for a $4388 average.
But the figures did not beat those set in 2014 when 31 bulls averaged $4565.
The clearance rate lifted to 32 bulls in post-sale negotiations.
Landmark southern livestock manager Bob Pumphrey said it was good to see the support of people who knew how the cattle performed and kept coming back.
For Mr Metcalfe the sale's similar result was pleasing and he was happy to see the stud's astute buyers get what they wanted.
"We have a loyal group of clients and we try to breed the cattle they need and keep a good commercial focus with good temperament," he said.
While it was largely a local buying audience, Bryce Whale and daughter Annika, Glenliam Farm stud, Glen William on the New South Wales mid-north coast, were exceptions.
They snapped up a cheapie at $3500, to go with a more expensive Murray Grey bull bought the previous day.
Ms Whale said they intended to use it in the stud herd because it offered a different type to their own cattle.
The silver bull Melaleuca Jeff J181 was particularly smooth through the front end and had the potential to breed good females.
Stud breeder Alastair Murray, Tullibardine, Albany, also found something to his liking.
He paid $4750 for a silver bull, Melaleuca Jeep J52, that had a 6.5 frame score and was noted for its high milk +8 and +2.4 eye muscle EBVs.
Jeff Pyle & Co, Manypeaks, paid a $5000 top and bought two others at auction for $3500 before fulfilling their requirements by buying another two privately.
Fred Mountford, Manypeaks, Bruce Mattinson, Albany, and the partnership of AG Thomas and DJ McMahon, Bremer Bay, each bought a single bull for $5000 to be among the top price buyers.