THE Landmark Great Southern Blue Ribbon Bull sale at Mt Barker confirmed the news that cattle producers were expecting - they will be paying more for their bulls this year.
The first bull auction for 2015 drew a big crowd which turned out in force to gauge market trends and the $7000 top price reached on four occasions emphasised the familiar message that quality sells.
Buyers picked their way through the 53-bull catalogue and keenly shopped locally to give an 83 per cent clearance.
The sale grossed $206,000 under Landmark John Wirth's hammer, up from $185,750 for 45 bulls in 2014 and, best of all, the recent good commercial prices flowed through to lift the overall average by $500 to be $4682.
Mr Wirth said from the time he inspected the bulls in November they had improved immensely and in the main were a very good offering.
"The Great Southern Blue Ribbon Bull Sale is growing in momentum and quality and there was good money for the better bulls in the popular Angus, Simmental and Charolais breeds but the less prominent breeds struggled to a degree," he said.
"It was the first sale of the bull selling season and provided an indicator for the sales to come."
Three of the top prices were captured by Darren and Narrelle Burrow, Mason Valley Angus and Red Angus stud, Albany, in their most consistent sale to date.
Their Angus bulls were the first cattle into the ring and lot two was the first to reach the top price paid by big Bornholm cattlemen Rob and Zac Hortin, FV Hortin & Sons, for Mason Valley Jet Set J25, sired by Mason Valley Rolling Thunder F3.
The bull had growth figures of +39, +65 and + 87 for respective 200, 400 and 600-day weights but figures meant less to the Hortin family than the success of their first Mason Valley bull bought last year.
The first calves of that bull, also by Rolling Thunder, are yet to arrive but Rob said he had grown into a good soft bull ideally suited to breeding the type of calves demanded by their main buyer Woolworths.
FV Hortin & Sons also paid $6750 for lot one Mason Valley Jenga J30, a 21-month-old bull by Mason Valley Ghostbuster G20 that was regarded by the Burrow family as a potential stud sire.
Although the Hortins run a substantial milking herd both bulls were destined for use as terminal sires in their 800-head beef herd.
Jenga had good growth figures showing +40, +76 and +99 for 200, 400 and 600-day weights.
Lot three, Mason Valley Jeffersonian J14 maintained the early momentum selling for $7000 to Phil Marshall, Torbay, who also paid $5750 for a second Rolling Thunder son from Mason Valley.
It was only the second time Mr Marshall had bought from the Burrow family and he will use the bulls in a crossbreeding program over Charolais and Charolais-Angus cross females for the vealer and lotfeeder markets.
Mason Valley sold bulls for $6000 to Tony Wolfe, Youngs Siding and $5000 to Tomlinson Ag, Boxwood Hill.
Mason Valley's $5786 average for seven Angus bulls was up only marginally but the enormous support from neighbours gave more importance to the result.
Ponderosa Angus stud, owned by Greg Brown, Albany, topped last year's sale and this year achieved a $6500 high paid by the same buyers Wayne and Serena Matthews, Kangarabbi Farms, Narrikup.
The bull, Ponderosa Jethro J21 was by Dunoon Evident E614 and carried a full set of December Angus Breedplan figures showing +46, +78 and +98 for 200, 400 and 600-day weights and +6.1 birthweight Estimated Breeding Values (EBV).
Ponderosa could not have been more consistent when it received $5750 for its other two bulls from Michael and Di Fryer-Smith, Towerlup Cattle Co, Kojonup and Tomlinson Ag, Boxwood Hills.
Ross and Noelle Smith, Ballawinna Angus stud, Albany, did not sell last year and gained a $5750 top paid by Phil Marshall for Ballawinna James J16, a son of Tullibardine E102 that had an outstanding +$95 domestic market index.
It was the highest of all available Angus figures in the catalogue.
Mason Valley made it a hat trick of top prices when its only Red Angus bull went for $7000 to neighbours and repeat buyers John and Paul Anderson, who run a big Simmental-based herd with some Red Angus infusion.
Mr Wirth regarded the bull highly and called for an $12,000 opening bid on the strength of catalogue comments stating Mason Valley Red Jubilee J10 had stud sire potential and consisted of a "mountain of muscle on a very correct frame".
The was plenty of action when the bull started at a $4000 opening bid but it appeared $7000 was the glass ceiling.
This cost sale sponsor Virbac dearly as all top price buyers received a five litre pack of Cydectin Pour-On.
The Red Angus in general met with only moderate support and the only other vendor to clear bulls under the hammer was GJ & TM Smith, Kildarra stud, Albany, who sold a single bull to Denvale Grazing Co, Denbarker, for $3500.
Kildarra offered three bulls and although two were passed in a second bull sold privately for $3000.
Simmental was the second breed into the ring and vendors Kevin and Janice Hard, Naracoopa Simmental stud, Denmark, registered a giant leap to average $5188 for eight bulls up from $4083 last year.
They shared the $7000 top price when return buyer Chris Blight, Redmond, who bought Naracoopa's 2014 top price bull, was successful on Naracoopa Juggle, an early maturing son of Woolallee Blockade B128.
As one of the more popular breeds on offer Naracoopa enjoyed strong support from return buyers.
The only exception was first time buyer and ex-Simmental stud breeder Bernie Dulex, Boyup Brook, who bought Naracoopa James for $6250.
Thornton Farms, Denmark, was back to buy a Poll bull, Naracoopa Juke, for $6000.
The WA College of Agriculture, Inlet Vews Simmental stud cleared all three bulls for $3000 to GB & JA Ross, Denmark, and two to JW Dennis & Co, Mt Barker.
The solitary Charolais stud Quicksilver, owned by Doug and Dani Giles, Newdegate, enjoyed consistent values with all seven bulls selling for between $4000 and $6000 to average $5000 up from $3400 last year.
The $6000 top price buyer was FW & JM Price, Albany, who bought Quicksilver Johnny Walker Red, a red factor bull with easy fleshing that the Giles family exhibited at the 2014 Sydney Royal Show to gain a second place in his class.
Graham Ayres Livestock, Bornholm, bought two bulls last year and returned for two more buying the polled bull Quicksilver Jumbuck for $5750 and Quicksilver Jumper Leads for $5500.
Willawa Greys was the only Murray Grey stud and owner Viv Giles, Newdegate, presented a slightly smaller offering of five bulls that achieved a full clearance and a $5750 top paid by Gingin Pastoral, Gingin.
The top price bull, Willawa Grey Jackson J4 was by Tarlina Coomunga C57, the sire of the last year's top price getter, and was first into the ring and showed a good set of figures.
The solid, deep youngster had a rib fat of 8mm, a 112 cm2 eye muscle area and 4.2pc intramuscular fat.
Colin Hambley, Mt Barker, bought a Willawa bull for $4000 and WK & B Thomas, Bremer Bay, bought at $3750 to help the stud to a $3900 average, up by $80 on last year.
GB & JA Ross bought the single Blonde D'Aquitaine bull offered by the Schneider family, Corolin stud, Porongurup, for $3000.
The bull was a free-moving son of Rahnik Beef Master and had a 125cm2 EMA with other figures showing good growth for age and a lower than average birthweight EBV.
First time vendor Brett Rowland, Denmark, put up a line of four solid red Tarlinca Shorthorn bulls and cleared two to Martin & Flavel, Albany, for $3000 each.
Both were by Neearra Impact F7 and were in the top 10pc of the breed for intramuscular fat.