WHEN you’re on a good thing stick to it could be the slogan Albany woolgrower Fred Weight farms by.
Mr Weight, who runs sheep and cattle at Youngs Siding, has bought his replacement wethers from the Batchelor family at Broomehill for 30 consecutive years.
He was back at the Batchelor’s Wellsbourne Farm with Elders Albany stock agent David Lindberg last week in what has become something of a rare annual ritual in a digital age when almost anything, including livestock, can be bought or sold online.
After inspecting three pens of mainly August 2016 drop Merino wethers, Mr Weight consulted with Mr Lindberg and made offers on a total of 350 – all but about eight of the Batchelors’ wethers from last year.
After some haggling over prices and good-natured banter about their condition, he shook hands with Richard Batchelor on $110 for 323 and $100 for another 27 – a deal done for the 30th time.
Acting for the Batchelors was Landmark Katanning agent and auctioneer Mark Warren who has been involved in this particular annual on-farm sale for the past 16 years.
Prior to him the Landmark agents involved included Wayne Hams and Peter Gale who is now at Esperance.
On the buyers’ side for many years it was long-time Elders agent Ray Norman, now retired.
“In this day and age it’s unusual for somebody to deal with the same family for 30 years consecutively, but I like their sheep,” Mr Weight said.
“I bought my first sheep off them (Batchelor family) at Katanning sale yards in 1987 and have been buying them ever since.
“They grow into bloody big wethers when I’ve finished with them, they’re easy care within reason, they’re plain sheep and pretty much good wool sheep – then again, we’re only getting the reward (for wool) these days aren’t we?
“Fine wool’s only been good for two and a half years, it’s been up for five minutes then down again.”
Mr Weight said he recently sold his 17.5 micron wool clip to a top of 1606 cents a kilogram greasy and was disappointed there were not more wethers on offer this year to capitalise on very good wool prices – he usually buys about 450 when they are available.
“I normally run 1700 wethers but I’ll be down a bit this year,” Mr Weight said.
“We’ve had an excellent year (at Youngs Siding) but it’s still a bit rough up here I can see and I understand why they’re a bit light on, but they’re still good sheep though.”
Mr Batchelor admitted his wethers were not as big as in previous years because of the season.
“We had paddocks under water with floods in March and we had 141 millimetres in two or three days at the end of February,” Mr Batchelor said.
“We were hand feeding sheep for three weeks until the grass come up and then we had that much feed so we sprayed it all out, but it didn’t rain again – it didn’t rain again until the end of May.
“Had we known we could have left it all and grazed it off with the sheep,” he said.
Mr Batchelor said his flock numbers were also down because until son Jack, 18, finished school partway through last year and decided to stay with the farm and sheep, he had been planning on “getting out of sheep”.
“Now Jack’s interested in running sheep we’ll have to build the numbers back up again.
“We used to be 2200 once, then 1800 for a few years, then 1400, 1200 – they got down to 900 when Jack came home, and now it’s 1050.
“Hopefully next year will be 1300 and possibly1550 the following year.”
He said Mr Weight had originally bought Batchelor family sheep sold under the Auriga banner which was his parents, Neil (deceased) and Margaret, his brother Mick and himself.
The sheep were originally offered at an annual October sale at Katanning but when that sale stopped Mr Weight continued to buy on-farm, Mr Batchelor said.
“He always used to take Mick’s wethers then Mick and I split up in 2004 and Mick did’t farm any more so now he buys from Wellsbourne Farm.
“He takes all our wethers.”
Mr Batchelor said his flock’s bloodlines were “fifty fifty” Australian Merino Society and Strath-Haddon stud.
Mr Warren said it was now rare for a woolgrower to buy replacement stock exclusively from the same farm.
“He’s one of very few who still buy lines of wethers,” Mr Warren said.
All things going well, Mr Weight said he planned to continue buying lines of Wellsbourne wethers for more years yet.
But on the vendor’s side there could be a succession change with next year’s handshake deal done with young Jack.