A RECORD-breaking wool market and solid sheep prices had buyers oozing confidence and ready to outlay at this year’s Merino ram sales.
On the back of a number of years’ growth in wool prices, producers who have stuck with Merinos and reaped these rewards, showed they were prepared to invest heavily in Merino genetics at sales, further improving their flocks and in turn propelling prices to record levels for a fourth consecutive year.
Sales this year went to a whole new level averaging $1785, on the back of only averaging more than $1200 for the first time in 2015 and more than $1500 for the first time last year – highlighting records never stay around for long.
With another major rise in the wool market this year and solid sheep prices, it has resulted in the returns for Merinos being at near record levels, making them a must-have commodity.
In the past six years there has been a significant upward movement in wool prices and this year was no different with wool prices hitting record levels at the start of the ram selling season.
Just as the selling season started, the Western Market Indicator (WMI) hit a record high of 2279c/kg clean in sale F07 on August 16.
At this level the WMI was up 599c/kg on the same time last year and up 888c/kg on the same sale in 2016.
The significant lift in wool prices over the past 18 months can be seen even further when you look at the WMI season averages for the past two seasons.
Last season (2017/18) the WMI averaged 1793c/kg and in the 2016/17 season it averaged 1454c/kg.
This meant during the 2017/18 season producers averaged $2225 for a 185 kilogram bale of good, sound wool averaging 21 micron and 68 per cent yield.
During the September/October period when ram sales were on, a bale was worth $2767, compared to $1985 last year and $1720 and $1570 in 2016 and 2015.
In terms of sheep prices these have tracked similarly to last year’s strong values despite the issues in the live sheep export industry.
Throughout the year wether prices at the Muchea Livestock Centre ranged between $95 and $120 to be similar to last year.
In terms of mutton when sales started at the beginning of September (week ending Tuesday, September 4) MLA’s weekly indicator report had mutton averaging 462c/kg dressed compared to 381c/kg in 2017.
Prices were even higher for mutton in the middle of the year and in July MLA’s WA saleyard indicator for mutton peaked at 454c/kg (as reported in the week ending July 24), with prices topping at $163.50 at Katanning on July 11.
Breeding ewe prices at spring sales this year also bolted away to record levels on the back of strong local support.
In these sales over the past month prices have a hit a State record high for commercial ewes of $239 at the Landmark Corrigin/Wickepin State Premier ewe sale, compared to last year’s high of $212.
But this wasn’t the only sale where ewes sold for more than $200, the majority of the sales saw top lines go beyond the $200 mark and as a result the ewe offerings in most sales averaged more than $140.
So with Merinos reeling in the dollars, it was no surprise it was Merino rams that buyers were seriously after at sales this year to both continue to improve the quality of their flocks and increase their Merino matings.
This intense demand was certainly on show when Merino sales started and continued right through to the end, ensuring record-breaking results for most studs.
During Merino and Poll Merino sales this year a total of 10,046 rams were offered at 75 auction sales, broken into 62 single vendor sales and 13 multi-vendor sales and 9469 of these rams sold under the hammer.
The 2017 season saw 9779 rams offered and 9220 sold, so in contrast this year there were an extra 249 rams sold and 267 offered.
The clearance rate was 94pc, the same as last year and overall the sales grossed a record-breaking $16,902,020, which was up $2,633,280 (18pc) on last year.
Like the gross figure and the yarding figures, there was also a significant increase in the overall average for Merino sales this year.
The average rose a stunning $237, which was on the back of a $161 rise last year, to finish at $1785, making it the highest average achieved by the breed and the fourth consecutive year the breed has averaged more than $1200.
The best average recorded for the breed prior to this year was $1548, achieved last year.
Looking back over the results since 1996, the Merino has lost market share with the introduction of numerous other breeds to the industry but over the past eight years it has claimed a fair bit back.
This year marked the first time since 2006 that more than 10,000 Merino and Poll Merino rams had been offered, while the number of rams sold ranked as the largest figure since 2006 also.
In 2006 breeders offered 11,291 rams and sold 9602 at an average of $866.
The market share for Merinos for the number of rams sold was 62pc, which was up one point on 2017, while in terms of the gross figure the Merino breed held 71pc of the market, up from 67pc last year.
The outstanding gross figure, which surpassed not only the $15 million mark but also the $16m barrier, marked the first time in history Merino sales had gone to these levels and set a new benchmark for breeders in the years ahead.
Prior to this season sales had only surpassed the $14m mark on two occasions and that was in 2003 and last year.
Prior to this season, last year was the biggest season for the breed in terms of a gross result when a figure of $14,268,740 was reached.
Like the rest of the figures this season, the top end of the market was again strong, with 19 rams selling for $10,000 or more, which was two more than last year.
This included three rams which sold for $20,000 or more.
The top price was $27,500 when the Lewis family’s Lewisdale stud, Wickepin, sold a semen sire at its on-property sale in September, entitling the buyer to semen to use in their flock and a half share of all semen sold with possession retained by the stud.
The share in the full-wool, four-tooth Poll Merino ram was purchased by commercial producers Aaron and Kirsty Pascoe, Pascoe Corporation, who run a property at East Pingelly.
The AI-bred ram, which is by Seymour Park George, was sashed the supreme exhibit at this year’s Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale and was sold with wool test figures of 22.6 micron, 2.7 SD and 99.5pc comfort factor, alongside a bodyweight of more than 160 kilograms.
The next best price for the season and the top price for full possession of a ram was $23,000, achieved by the Sprigg family’s East Strathglen stud when it sold a two-tooth Poll Merino at its on-property sale at Tambellup.
The ram, which was by West Plains Mercenary and measured 19.8 micron, 3.6 SD and 99.6pc comfort factor in the wool, was purchased by commercial producers Gerald and Murray Saunders, A Saunders & Co, Narrogin.
The stud also sold a two-tooth Merino sire in the sale for $15,500, the top price for a two-tooth Merino sire.
The third top price and top price for a Merino ram was $22,500 and this was recorded by the House family’s, Barloo stud, Gnowangerup, at the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale, when it sold a full wool, four-tooth Merino sire.
It was purchased by the East Mundalla stud, Tarin Rock.
Barloo also sold another full wool, four-tooth Merino sire in the same sale for $10,000 and a two-tooth Merino ram at its on-property sale for $10,000.
Other sales to achieve values at the higher end between $10,000 and $20,000 included the East Mundalla on-property sale, Tarin Rock ($16,750 and $10,200 for Polls and $11,200 for a Merino); Woolkabin on-property, Woodanilling ($16,000, Poll); Westerdale on-property sale, McAlinden ($15,250, Poll); Woodyarrup on-property sale, Broomehill ($15,000 and $10,200, Merinos); Kamballie on-property, Tammin ($13,000 and $10,500, Polls); Anderson on-property sale, Kojonup ($12,200, Poll) and Pyramid Poll on-property, Cascade ($10,000, Poll).
Those to sell in the same price range at the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale included the Mianelup stud, Gnowangerup ($14,000, Poll) and Kolindale stud, Dudinin ($10,000, Poll).
Of the 19 rams to sell for $10,000 or more, 12 were Polls, while 12 sold to WA and Eastern States studs with the remaining seven going to commercial producers.
This year 102 rams sold for $5000 or more under the hammer, compared to only 74 last year.
But these top prices failed to match the $30,000 achieved in a private sale by the Button family’s Manunda stud, Tammin, when it sold a two-tooth Poll ram for this value to the Woolkabin stud at the Narrogin Long Wool Day.
In addition to this private sale there were another three private sales which cracked the $10,000 mark, including two at $25,000.
The Kamballie stud, Tammin, sold a full wool, four-tooth Poll Merino sire for $25,000 to the Stud Park South stud, Willaura, Victoria, at the Australian Sheep & Wool Show in Bendigo, Victoria and the Pyramid Poll stud achieved the same value for a two-tooth Poll Merino sire when it negotiated a deal with the Seymour Park stud, Highbury and Kamora Park stud, Karoonda, South Australia (semen share) at the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale.
The Willemenup stud, Gnowangerup, also sold a ram privately at the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale for $10,000 to the Mianelup stud.
At the 63 single vendor sales there were 8248 rams offered, up 148 head and 7754 sold, which was up 104 head on last year.
At these sales a total of 43 increased their offerings or offered the same numbers as 2017, while 31 sales sold the same number or more rams.
However not only were there more rams offered and sold in single vendor sales this year, the average for these sales also increased by $243 on the back of last year’s rise of $163, finishing at $1813 to now comfortably sit as the highest average ever recorded for single vendor sales.
The previous highest average was $1565 achieved last year.
In the single vendor offerings East Strathglen took the honour of recording the best average when it achieved an incredible average of $3017, over 169 rams sold from 170 offered - this average is now the highest ever recorded at a single vendor ram sale in WA and the first time a sale has ever averaged more than $3000.
Following on with impressive averages at single vendor sales were the Angenup stud, Kojonup ($2656 average, 250 offered, 250 sold), East Mundalla ($2573, 215, 215), Barloo ($2417, 220, 219), Anderson ($2368, 100, 100), Woolkabin ($2341, 217, 217), Westerdale, McAlinden ($2226, 144, 143) and Kolindale on-property ($2207, 348, 348).
Others to record an average of more than $2000 were Kamballie ($2175), Lewisdale ($2142), Moojepin, Katanning ($2118), Arra-dale, Carnamah ($2110), Woodyarrup ($2099) and Derella Downs/Pyramid Poll ($2078), which meant there were a total of 14 sales which averaged $2000 or more compared to seven in 2017 and three in 2016.
In addition to this there were another 16 sales that averaged between $1500 and $2000 and 20 which averaged between $1200 and $1500.
This meant 30 sales averaged $1500 or more compared to 25 in 2017.
Along with these there were six sales to average between $1000-$1200, making a total of 56 sales or 90pc with an average of $1000 or more compared to 48 last year and 46 in 2016.
Forty-six single vendor sales (or 74pc) saw a lift in average, one more than 2017 and these rises ranged between $11 and $931.
Recording the largest jump in average was Arra-dale, which recorded a massive $931 increase.
Other sales to raise their average by more than $500 included Calcaling, Mukinbudin ($695), East Strathglen ($596), Ejanding, Dowerin ($662), Claypans, Corrigin ($586), Kolindale on-property ($564), Cranmore, Walebing ($563), Misty Hills/Rosedale, Kojonup ($552), Derella Downs/Pyramid Poll ($547), East Mundalla ($547) and Hill Padua, Three Springs ($512).
A further 13 sales achieved a rise between $250 and $500 and another 15 achieved an increase of $100-$250.
A total clearance is a hard task and this year 18 sales ticked this box.
Of these, 10 of them offered teams of more than 150 head and these included Kolindale on-property (348), Manunda (300), Angenup (250), Lewisdale (240), Woolkabin (217), East Mundalla (215), Billandri, Kendenup (200), Cranmore (200), Claypans (177) and Kamballie (172).
The Kolindale stud, again presented the largest offering of rams to buyers, cataloguing a whopping 448 rams and selling 433 at its on-property and Esperance sales.
It offered and sold 348 at its on-property and sold 85 out of 100 at Esperance.
Kolindale also topped the list of single sale offerings when it offered the most rams, with its catalogue of 348 all sold under the hammer at its on-property sale.
The next biggest sales were Manunda (300 offered and 300 sold), Eastville Park/Quailerup West (300, 296), Nepowie, Nomans Lake (257, 244), Woodyarrup (252, 248), Angenup (250, 250), Lewisdale (240, 240) and Derella Downs/Pyramid Poll (240, 227), while another six sales also offered more than 200 rams.
The six largest grossing single vendor sales were Kolindale on-property ($768,150), Angenup ($664,100), Manunda ($553,900), East Mundalla ($553,100), Barloo ($529,220) and Woodyarrup ($520,500).
There were another three sales to gross more than $500,000, meaning nine sales in total above this figure, compared to only two last year.
There were also 18 between $200,000 and $500,000 to give a total of 27 sales with a gross figure of $200,000 or more, compared to 24 in 2017 and 20 in 2016.
This season there were 1798 rams offered under the hammer at 13 multi-vendor ram sales, which was up 119 head and of these 1715 sold, up 145 head on last season.
There were nine sales where the offerings increased or were the same as last year and 11 sales where the number of rams sold was higher or equal.
The overall average for multi-vendor sales was $1658, making it the best ever recorded.
It was up $197 or 13pc on last year and up $348 on the 2016 result, which were the two previous best results.
All 13 sales achieved an average of more than $1000, only 10 did in last season, while there were eight which averaged more than $1500, compared to four in 2017.
It was no surprise the highest overall sale average and highest multi-vendor sale average was chalked up at the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale when it realised $7750 over the 16 rams sold from the 19 offered, which included both four-tooth and two-tooth rams.
Studs which sold more than two rams and achieved an average more than $5000 in the sale were Barloo ($16,250), Mianelup ($11,750), East Mundalla ($8000) and Seymour Park ($5000).
The next highest average after the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale was $2665 at the Dinninup ram sale, where three studs sold 99 rams from 100 offered.
This was followed by $1887 at the Wyalkatchem sale, where two studs cleared 190 from 196 rams offered.
Other sales that averaged more than $1500 were Seymour Park/Darijon at Narrogin ($1706), Chapman Valley ($1688), Esperance ($1654), Williams ($1555) and Wagin ($1539).
Studs participating in two-tooth multi-vendor sales outside the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale that recorded averages of more than $1500 included Beaufort Vale (50 offered, 50 sold, $3352 average) and Hiview (45, 45, $2076) at Dinninup; Wynarling (22, 22, $2155) at Chapman Valley; Cardiff (117, 117, $2080) and Olinda (79, 73, $1577) at Wyalkatchem; Wattledale (140, 133, $1825) at Esperance; Seymour Park (174, 174, $1756) at Narrogin; Kingussie (100, 97, $1763) at Wagin plus Navanvale (100, 87, $1729), Toorackie (60, 60, $1518) and Auburn Valley (58, 55, $1504) at Williams.
Another 17 studs averaged between $1000 and $1500 at these two-tooth multi-vendor sales.
Twelve of the 13 multi-vendor sales posted an increase in average compared to 2017 and the only one not to was the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale.
The rises ranged from $33 to the biggest increase of $691 recorded at Chapman Valley.
The other sales to record a rise of more than $300 were Wyalkatchem ($407), Corrigin ($407), Wagin ($332) and Merredin ($329).
It’s a hard task to achieve a total clearance in any season and this year four sales did – Northampton, Quairading, Wongan Hills and Seymour Park/Darijon (Narrogin), while there were another two sales, which achieved a 95pc or better clearance – Dinninup (99) and Wyalkatchem (97).
There were 32 studs to offer rams at multi-vendor ram sales (excluding the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale) this year and 19 of them achieved a total clearance.
Those to achieve a total clearance with teams of 30 or more rams were Seymour Park (174) at Narrogin; Cardiff (117) at Wyalkatchem; Walkindyer (70) and Sandhurst (35) at Northampton, Toorackie (60) at Williams, Merna (55) at Quairading, Beaufort Vale (50) and Hiview (45) at Dinninup; Mocardy (36) and Northwich (36) at Wongan Hills plus Sunnyview (35) at Wagin.
The largest yarding of rams at a multi-vendor fixture was at the Williams Breeders’ ram sale where 263 rams were offered and 246 sold.
Other sizeable offerings were listed at Esperance (230 offered, 214 sold), Wyalkatchem (196, 190), Seymour Park/Darijon at Narrogin (195, 195), Wagin (190, 178), Merredin (175, 161) and Northampton (157, 157).
The five largest grossing sales were Williams ($382,600), Wyalkatchem ($358,500), Esperance ($353,900), Seymour Park/Darijon ($332,700),and Wagin ($273,900), while another five sales grossed more than $100,000.