A BIG crowd was on hand for this year's Australian Sheep and Wool Show's Merino ram sale at Bendigo, Victoria, recently, where prices hit a high of $26,000 on three occasions.
With solid buying support from the large crowd in the hunt for new Merino genetics, 100 of 125 rams offered sold for a $5145 average.
In comparison, last year in the sale 97 rams sold from 125 for a $5041 average, meaning the average was up $144 on last year.
Landmark stud stock representative Andrew Sloan said the sale was strong for the best sheep and the clearance rate was similar to 2018.
"It wasn't a free flowing sale and we had to work for every bid," Mr Sloan said.
"You have to remember that there was not much buying from north of the border.
"In the past they have bought a number of rams out of Bendigo."
The Sunday afternoon time slot of the sale again allowed WA breeders the opportunity to offer rams in the sale, which four studs took up.
The Claypans stud (two Poll Merino rams), Corrigin and the Rangeview stud (one Merino and one Poll Merino, Darkan), were the only WA vendors in last year's sale.
That wasn't the case this year, as they were joined by the Woodyarrup stud, Gnowangerup and the Seymour Park stud, Highbury, which both offered in the sale for the first time with two Merinos and one Poll Merino respectively.
Leading the way for the WA offering was the single entry from the Seymour Park stud which sold for $21,000, the second highest price in the sale.
But the ram wasn't left on the east coast, it is headed back to WA on the truck after Elders stud stock representative Nathan King secured it over the phone for return Seymour Park buyers the Cowan family, Crichton Vale stud, Narembeen.
The May 2018-drop, crimpy woolled ram is a son of Seymour Park 68, which was grand champion fine/medium wool ram at last year's Australian Sheep & Wool Show.
It was sold with wool figures of 19.7 micron, 2.7 SD, 14.0 CV and 99.9 per cent comfort factor and in the show it was sashed the reserve champion March shorn fine/medium wool Poll Merino ram.
Mr King, who classes for the Crichton Vale stud, said Crichton Vale stud principal Bill Cowan had travelled to Narrogin to inspect the Seymour Park rams before they headed to Bendigo and they picked this one out because of its allround potential.
"We purchased a ram (908) from the Seymour Park stud a few years ago and it now has a number of daughters in the stud and we believe this ram is ideally suited to go over them," Mr King said.
"The 908 daughters are good on their feet and are good wool cutting sheep and this ram with its soft, white wool, excellent structure and great backend we believe it will complement them really well and it will be a really good cross.
"The ram will also be a different Seymour Park bloodline for Crichton Vale, which was something else we were pretty keen on.
"He is nearly spot on for the modern day ram and because of this will be able to not only use him over 908 daughters, but just about anything in the stud.
"If we can breed rams that look like him, then the Crichton Vale clients will love them."
Unfortunately for the other WA studs offering rams in the sale, their rams were overlooked by buyers and passed in.
The three $26,000 equal top-priced rams were sold by the Alfoxton stud, Armidale, New South Wales, the Glen Donald stud, Nhill, Victoria and the Glenpaen stud, Brimpaen, Victoria.
The first ram to reach the $26,000 mark was a poll ram from the Alfoxton stud and purchased by a syndicate made up of the Trefusis stud, Ross, Tasmania and Trevor and Siri Hall, Young, NSW.
The ET-bred ram by PB150026 was sold with wool figures of 16.5 micron, 2.4 SD, 14.5 CV and 99.9pc CF.
Buyer Georgina Wallace, Trefusis stud, said that since starting a Poll stud two years ago, they had used Alfoxton semen and the progeny had done very well.
"We wanted another good, physical ram that was big and upstanding, structurally correct and well covered," Ms Wallace said.
"This ram will be a very valuable addition and will fit in with producing for our environment with its extremely white wool which is critical in this environment.
"The ram will have semen collected now because we have orders already and also as an insurance policy."
Ms Wallace said the ram would be used over about 80 selected stud ewes in March.
Trevor Hall said this was the third ram he had bought at Bendigo from Alfoxton since 2015.
Alfoxton stud principal Chris Clonan said all three rams that Mr Hall's syndicates had bought were out of the same ewe - 10197, which was the grand champion Poll Merino ewe in 2012 at Bendigo.
A full ET-brother to the Alfoxton sale topper in the next pen made $4000 and is headed to WA when it sold to the Rintoul family, Tilba Tilba stud, Williams.
Andrew Rintoul said they purchased the ram for its pedigree and breeding.
"His quality and quantity for his micron is very good and is the type of ram we look for in terms of his bright white wool," Mr Rintoul said.
"He will fit really well into our breeding objectives."
The August 2017-drop ram has current wool figures of 16.7 micron, 2.7 SD, 16.2 CV and 99.8pc CF.
The second ram to hit $26,000 was a poll in lot 49 from Robert Harding's Glen Donald stud.
After a fierce bidding melee the ram was finally knocked down to Stavely stud, Stavely, Victoria, with the losing bidders being a WA syndicate made up of the Warralea stud, Gairdner and the Westerdale stud, McAlinden.
Buyer Felicity Brady, Stavely stud, said they had been admiring the Glen Donald sheep for a few years.
"This ram goes back to a West Plains Mercenary ram and those bloodlines did "very well" in the western district climate," Ms Brady said.
The 26-month-old, August shorn, upstanding ram has current wool figures of 22.0 micron, 3.1 SD, 14.1 CV and 99.2pc CF.
The final ram to make $26,000 was the supreme exhibit of the show from the Miller family's Glenpaen stud.
The Merino ram in lot 113 was eventually knocked down to a syndicate including the Merrignee stud, Boorowa, NSW, the Coryule stud, Willowvale, Victoria and the Alfoxton stud.
The 24-month-old, August shorn ram by Glenpaen Magic was sold with current wool figures of 17.5 micron, 2.5 SD, 14.3 CV and 100pc CF.
A syndicate including the Merrignee stud, the Conrayn stud, Berridale, NSW and the Grassy Creek stud, Reids Flat, NSW, also bid to five figures paying $18,000 for an August shorn Merino ram offered by the Langdene stud, Dunedoo, NSW.
The July 2017-drop ram, which is by RP 14-3033 has current wool figures of 17 micron, 2.5 SD, 14.7 CV and 99.9pc CF.
Another five rams sold for $10,000 or more in the sale.
The Merryville stud, Boorowa, sold three rams from its team of eight at $13,000 and $10,000 twice, while the Orrie Cowie stud, Warooka, South Australia, saw its team of four rams peak at $14,500 and the Boramil stud, Corowa, NSW, team of four peaked $10,000.
Along with the two rams from the sale which sold to the Crichton Vale stud and the Tilba Tilba stud, another three rams sold to WA connections.
The Jackson family, Kojonup, paid $4750 for December 2017-drop Poll Merino ram from the Bundaleer stud, Walla Walla, NSW.
The March shorn ram has current wool wool figures of 17.8 micron, 2.7 SD, 15.2 CV and 99.7pc CF.
The other two rams heading to WA were a Poll from the Hillcreston stud, Bigga, NSW and a 16.5 micron sire from the Grathlyn stud, Mudgee, NSW, which were both knocked down to an Elders stud stock account for $2000.