WOOL producers celebrated the end to the stockpile in the best way they knew how - with a massive spending spree at the PIBA Katanning Ram Sale on Friday.
The upsurge in wool confidence caught stud breeders off-guard as prices soared to $54,000 and averages escalated to $7102, to turn around years of gradual decline.
The sale average was a massive $2820 higher than last year and its $444,450 gross capped off a week of intense speculation on a high note when it exceeded last year's total by $152,250, despite six less rams sold this year.
The clearance was 76pc compared with 80pc last year.
The boost in buyer confidence was matched by the improvement in quality as stud after stud offered one or two of their top rams with the right to collect semen or with the vendor retaining a share of any future semen sales.
Equally as clear was that buyers wanted only the best, even if it meant long established clients shopped elsewhere if they couldn't find it at their usual stud.
Elders auctioneer Tony Wetherall stepped down from the rail and declared it an outstanding result and great to see. He said the quality of the offering was so high it made interstate breeders sit up and look.
The contingent of interstate and international buyers were competitive in the bidding with two rams sold to New Zealand and South Africa and two others destined for New South Wales and Victoria but for much of the sale they were beaten by locals.
Wesfarmers Landmark auctioneer Dennis Roberts was equally pleased saying it had proven that people were prepared to pay for top quality sires and back their judgment for the long term.
"People were buying what they wanted no matter where or what stud it was from," he said.
The $54,000 ram came from Willemenup stud, owned by Dick Garnett and son Collyn and families at Gnowangerup, and created the most animated bidding seen in years at Katanning as at least four bidders in the crowd and two agents on the phone with interstate orders swamped the auctioneer with bids.
At the end it was Wesfarmers Landmark stud stock manager Preston Clarke bidding on behalf of Kojonup-based Hyfield stud owned by Dick Lester who won ownership but three other studs had bid to more than $50,000.
The ram, a grandson of 046, better known as Ol' Man, had been sashed supreme champion the day before, earning the right to represent WA at the National PIBA Wesfarmers Landmark Ram of the Year at Dubbo in NSW this week.
The ram was outstanding for size and had equally exceptional wool test figures of 19.4 microns, 3.0 standard deviation and 99.3 percent comfort factor.
Within minutes of the sale the buyers announced the ram would definitely be shown at Dubbo.
Hyfield studmaster Kevin Keatley said they had been watching the sheep since its first public appearance at the Wagin Woolorama in March and said it was the most outstanding ram he'd ever seen.
Within two minutes the Garnett family were ecstatic again when their second ram was knocked down to Wesfarmers Landmark Northampton agent Garry Harrison for $19,000 on behalf of Warwick and Joan Teakle, Walkindyer stud, Northampton.
Mr Teakle said the ram was big, bold and upstanding and had the right figures. By the end of the day he was delighted with the enquiry for semen and was planning an initial AI program with 200 ewes.
The sale opened on a strong note when Wesfarmers Landmark auctioneer Dennis Roberts bowled over the Yarrum Valley team leader for $15,250 to commercial wool producer Neville Bunker and son Richard, Kendenup.
Mr Bunker justified the big investment when he said he had been a long-term Yarrum Valley client and planned to start breeding his own rams for a 3000-strong ewe flock.
Losing bidder on the first ram Gordon Brown, Nyabing, was another long-term commercial client whose confidence in wool prompted him to outlay $12,750 for the second ram while the Tambellup stud principal Murray Groves was pleased to see Rex Measday, Subasio Downs, Wellstead, return for the second successive year to pay $4000.
The $26,000 equal second top price came well into the sale when Peter Dewar, Strath-Haddon, Gnowangerup, presented a single SRS sire.
The buyer was fellow-SRS stud breeder Colin and Rae Lewis, Kolindale, Wickepin, in partnership with Graham Jones, Brickhouse stud, Cranbrook.
Mr Lewis, who will take possession and 50pc semen marketing rights, said is was the first time he'd seen an SRS ram with such scale. The sire had been worked in its current fleece and had only been shedded for the final three months of sale preparation.
In turn Kolindale had the distinction of selling interstate when Jarrod Oliver paid $5500 to get SRS genetics for his Pleasant View, stud, NSW. Kolindale also sold a spring-drop Merino ram for $5500 for the second successive year to Robert Doney, Bruluc stud, Harrismith. JE & SE Moulton, Dale-River stud, Beverley, paid $3750 for the final Kolindale ram.
Lewisdale stud, owned by Ray and Helen Lewis, Wickepin, equaled the price when they sold one of six rams for $26,000 to livestock consultant Hugh Warden on behalf of five of his clients calling themselves the Balanced Merino Alliance.
Mr Warden would not disclose names but said they represented both stud and commercial sheep breeders.
Their aim was to breed a balanced meat and wool sheep and he regarded the sire as the best that Lewisdale had ever bred and the best he'd had ever seen for combination of wool quality and body. He said it was rare to find such evenness of wool quality, the measurements, including a 20.7 micron and 99.4pc comfort factor, and scale in the one sheep.
Kylie, owned by David and Adrian Webster, Dudinin, sold two rams under the hammer for up to $20,500 to daughter stud Meelia owned by Phillip and Christine Collins, Morawa.
The Collins family has been using Kylie rams since 1991 and registered a stud in 1995 and said the 19.7 micron ram suited their purposes.
A second ram fetched $10,000 and went interstate to the Kolonga Poll Merino stud at Seymour in Victoria, which paid $26,500 for a Kylie ram in 1998 at Katanning.
Rod and Trevor Norrish's Angenup stud, Kojonup, became the first stud to sell a short-wool 4-tooth ram after the Great Southern Merino Sheepbreeders Association's decision this year to include March shorn rams for the first time.
The stud posted some the most consistently high prices for its six-ram offering.
Chris Buller, Ajays, Darkan, surpassed a substantial reserve to get the second ram, which had been awarded grand champion Merino ram the previous day, in a single $15,000 bid.
The team leader fell for $11,000 to Bill Wade, Greenville stud, Narrogin, competing against an interstate bidder on the telephone.
Peter Marinoni, Longridge stud, Kojonup, paid $6500 to become the first buyer of a short-wool ram and commercial clients Adrian and Trevor Kershaw, Ravensthorpe, bought two full-wools for $6000 and $4500.
But the highest price at Katanning for a short-wool ram was $12,000 set by Allan Hesford, Parklands stud, Perenjori, for a Cardo ram sold by the Keamy family, Moora, after competitive bidding from one of the visiting South Africans.
Cardo also had the distinction of being the first stud to offer a bare-shorn 4-tooth when Elders Northam paid $1500 for the stud's entry in the Wesfarmers Landmark Pro-ram Award.
The ram's 20.2 micron fleece with a 99pc CF was on display beside the ram.
Sunny Valley stud principals Neil and Sandy Jackson, Kojonup, were delighted when their team leader set a $15,000 stud record.
Their previous best price had been $13,000 and they were pleased that the buying partnership comprised two long-term clients.
They were Perry and Sharon Corker, Hiview stud, who have been a daughter stud for 38 years and commercial wool producer David Mackie, Hartnell Grazing Co, both of Boyup Brook.
Sunny Valley also received $4000 from DE & KE Buller, Darkan.
Keen commercial sheepman Graham Tonkin, Newdegate, gave the Woolkabin results a boost when he paid the $8500 top for a Poll ram as well as $2750 for a second Poll.
Another commercial wool producer LR, GT & IJ Simmons, Brookton, paid $3500 for the Merino team leader.
Barry Smith, St Quentin stud, Katanning, sold two of the six rams offered attracting a $9000 top price from Michael Van Zeyl, Monnal stud, Kendenup, for a long-staple Charinga grandson and $4000 from stud breeder BA & LD James, Corinya, Albany.
Rowland Sprigg, Tambellup, who was runner-up in the Pro-ram Award added to his success after an East Strathglen son from the Nalya family sold for $3000 to FJ Bear & Co, Moonijin stud, Dowerin.
The McNeill family from Sandfyre stud, Dalwallinu, returned to buy the single Amuri Creek ram offered by Murray Drage, Tunney.
They bought their first Amuri Creek ram in 1998 and last week paid $4500 to expand the bloodline.
New Zealand stud breeder Graham Black who was in WA to judge the Elders Field Day Four Awards took advantage of the opportunity to buy a fine wool Tilba Tilba sire.
He said he had recently formed a true fine-wool stud as an adjunct to his medium wool flock and had used Tilba Tilba genetics previously.
He paid $4250 and paid special tribute to the improvement he had seen in WA sheep in the past 10 years.
Tilba Tilba also sold the previous day's champion fine wool Poll ram for $2000 to Bill and George Reynolds, Burracoppin.
Stud principal Stuart Rintoul also sold single ram from his second stud Dongiemon for $3000 to last year's buyer Phil Ivey, Bodallin.
Hyfield stud was one of the most successful in the show ring winning the most points in the section.
It was a success that translated in good sale results when the champion fine wool Merino ram sold for $5000 to GW Prowse & Co, Darkan, and its short-wool Poll Merino ram was bought by Bill and George Reynolds for $3500.
High prices for rams early in the sale prompted Trevor Cooper, Rose Cottage stud, Nabawa, to buy Pallinup stud's team leader for $8500.
The ram had been first sighted by him at the Narrogin long-wool day and he considered it to be one of the outstanding medium wool Polls on offer.
Stud principal Geoff Lewis was rewarded twice when the Ash family from Allaneena stud, Northampton, paid $4000.
Commercial client Neil Climas, Newdegate, capped of s solid Pallinup sale with $2000 for a Merino ram.
The Grange was welcomed back to Katanning sale with a $6250 paid by L & B Metcalf, Geraldton, for the stud's only ram offered.
Studmaster Lukis Blake made the trip home proud of a big week of success including a win in the Wesfarmers Landmark Pro-ram award and being selected as a finalist in the Elders Field Day Four awards.
A contingent of nearly a dozen South African Merino breeders were active in the bidding but only bought a single ram.
Andres Botha, who has an established superfine stud, bought in partnership with Boyup Brook farmer Mick Catalano to acquire a $9000 Misty Hills ram with a 17 micron fleece.
The ram will be retained by Mr Catalano who has bought previous Misty Hills sires from vendors Russell and Heather Meaton, Kojonup.
The team leader had been judged champion superfine wool ram but failed to selling when bidding did not reach the reserve when it stopped at $5500.
Commercial clients made Richard and Fed House's Barloo result solid rather than spectacular.
The Gnowangerup stud received $5500 from Brad Talbot, Corrigin, then new buyer T & D Nairn, Northampton, spent $4500 before Peter Wilhelm, Woodanilling, returned after a long absence, for a dose of Collinsville genetics for $2250.
Returning to the sale ring after an absence of nearly a decade, Neville Chittleborough, Shalimar stud, Mt Barker, showed they had not lost their reputation for quality wool.
They presented six rams and sold three under the hammer before clearing the rest of the line-up privately.
LT Toovey, Cranbrook, paid the $4500 top as well as $3500 for a second ram.
Lewisdale-Corrigin studmaster Ivan Lewis proved the strength of his stud lay with his Poll sheep after the medium wool team leader sold for $7750 to Heal Partners, Three Springs, and R & D Sudholtz, Badgingarra, bought at $3000.
In contrast a short-wool Merino ram sold for $2000 to M & A Blight, Narrogin.
Paul Ardagh offered two medium wool Merino rams from his Karingal stud at Kondinin and established clients Joe Starcevich, Muntadgin, and Kevin Ball, Wagin, paid $4750 and $1500 respectively.
Bruce Mangan's Koonje Park stud, Narrogin, found favour with new commercial client Brad Talbot, Wickepin, and sold for $1200.