IN a challenging season the Moojepin Merinos on-property ram sale at Katanning was as strong as ever as buyers pushed prices to record levels.
With strong competition right through the catalogue from a long list of return buyers who know the benefits of using Moojepin bloodlines, prices soared to a record sale high of $12,500.
From the opening lot to the very last pen, the 36 registered buyers from as far away as Victoria weren't afraid to show their hand and dig deep into their pockets for the rams they really wanted.
As a result Landmark auctioneer Michael Altus had no trouble finding new homes for the rams on offer.
By the end of the sale Mr Altus had cleared 124 of the 131 rams offered by the Thompson family for an average of $2202, which was up $84 on last year.
In comparison in last year's sale when the season was more favourable and the wool market was rocketing, the stud sold 125 rams from 130 offered to a top of $7000 and an average of $2118.
Mr Altus said the final result was an outstanding one for the Thompson family.
"The strong sale result was underpinned by the solid support once again from long term repeat buyers, proving the Moojepin genetics are performing extremely well for them," Mr Altus said.
"There were also a few new buyers operating through the sale as well and this added to the competition which was know doubt a contributing factor to the average increasing on last year.
"The final result was certainly stronger than presale expectations given the season and how it has dried out very quickly in the past few weeks."
Equally as happy with the overall sale result was the Thompson family, stud co-principal Hamish Thompson who said they were extremely wrapped with the sale results.
"We couldn't be happier with the clearance and prices given the season," Mr Thompson said.
"We have never sold a ram for more than five figures so to sell two in the sale and another privately on the day was beyond our expectations.
"We were pleased to see plenty of clients back buying again as it is recognition that our genetics are working in the paddock and it was great to see a handful of first time buyers operating."
Bidding was red hot from the start of the sale but it wasn't until more than halfway through the catalogue when Mr Altus stood over lot 75 that the buyers really pulled their hands out of their pockets.
After taking an opening bid of $5000 on the long-stapled, stylish woolled ram Mr Altus wasn't short of bids and he quickly added them up and in a blink of an eye the price had hit five figures.
Eventually bidding slowed and at $12,500 Mr Altus knocked the ram over to return buyer of 19 years Kane Page, KJ & RJ Page, Pingelly, who was at the sale with his partner Paula Morales and his son Brock.
Mr Page said the ram was a standout.
"He has a good robust structure and an outstanding set of figures across the board," Mr Page said.
"He is very good for clean fleece weight, staple length, eye muscle and post weaning weight plus he also has a negative worm egg count."
The July-drop, 17.4 micron ram, which is by Moojepin 160003, was noted in the catalogue to be a trait leader on MerinoSelect (ranks in the top 10 per cent) for WWT (8.3), PWWT (10.8), PEMD (1.7), YCFW (24.8) and YSL (26.4) while its yearling worm egg count (YWEC) was -24.
Mr Page also went home with the sale's $10,000 second top-priced ram when in one bold bid he secured a triplet born and raised ram in lot 114.
Mr Page described this ram as very safe to breed good ewe lambs from.
"He structurally sound and also has good figures across the board," Mr Page said.
"His eye muscle, fleece weight and staple length are very good."
The 16.2 micron, ram which is also a son of Moojepin 160003, is a trait on MerinoSelect for WWT (6.9), PWWT (8.1), PEMD (2.1), YFAT (1.2), YCFW (25.1) and YSL (27.8) while is YWEC was -29.
The Pages rounded out their purchases when Brock was handed the bidding card and secured twin born ram in lot 129 at $4000.
All three rams purchased will be used in the Page's nucleus flock of 750 ewes to breed rams to use in its 5000-head commercial ewe flock.
Mr Page said their mature ewes average 19 micron and the operation achieved a 125pc lambing percentage this year.
"We aim for a balanced sheep and are targeting a high weaning percentage," Mr Page said.
Return buyers of 20 years Kit and Toby Anderson, Slabhut Grazing, Tunney, secured the sale's $7500 third top-priced ram, among a team of five which averaged $3650.
The $7500 ram was also located late in the catalogue in lot 123 and a son of Moojepin 160003.
The triplet born and raised lamb is a trait leader forr WWT (7.4), PWWT (8.3), PEMD (1.9), YFAT (1.1), and YSL (28.5) while its YWEC was -25.
Kit Anderson said they continued to buy from Moojepin over the past 20 years because they are good easycare sheep with good growth traits and good carcase attributes.
This year Andersons, who are regularly achieving lambing percentages between 110-115pc, will mate 4500 ewes to Merinos and 2500 ewes to White Suffolk sires.
Also on the ute back to the Andersons' property was a very special ram for which they paid $3750.
The ram was offered at the very end of the sale and all its sale proceeds are destined for the Blue Tree Project.
There were a number of buyers who purchased a pair of rams at the top end of the price list and these included HA & KM Townrow, Westonia, which paid $5500 and $4250 for its selections, while the Hooke family, Willera Merinos, Serpentine, Victoria, bid to $5250 and $4000 for its choices after securing a stud sire privately before the sale for $25,000 and Murnong Farming, Inverleigh, Victoria, secured two rams at $4000 and $3500.
Other strong supporters at the top end of prices but also buying bigger teams were R & J Garstone, Woodanilling, which averaged $2125 across a team of four while JR & PG Gordon, Kaniva, Victoria, secured five rams at an average of $2100 and Marwonga Nominees, Popanyinning, averaged $2188 across a team of four.
One of the most prominent buyers in the sale was David Meyer, Broomehill, who has been buying from the stud for 16 years.
Mr Meyer, who farms with his wife Charmaine, finished the day with a team of 10 rams to a top of $3250 and an average of $2475, adding to their sire battery which will be mated to 2700 ewes this year for a July lambing.
Mr Meyer said the Moojepin sheep were good all-round sheep, with a combination of good growth, carcase and wool traits plus excellent fertility.
"They have good growth rates, good carcase attributes and plus good quality wool but more importantly they have top fertility," Mr Meyer said.
Over the past three years the Meyers have achieved a lambing percentage of more than 115pc across their whole flock.
When it comes to marketing their wether lambs the Meyers sell them at seven to eight months old averaging 40 kilograms liveweight to mostly lotfeeders.
On the wool front the Meyers do two nine-month shearings followed by a six-month shearing to fit in with other farming activities.
Mr Meyer said they were aiming for 100mm staple length on their nine month shearings and their mature sheep cut about 5kg of wool from nine months growth.
The volume buyer in the sale was Dumbitt Hills, Wandering, which finished the day with 12 sires to a top of $2000 twice and an average of $1458.
Also buying a double figure teams were repeat clients Clifden Farming Co, Katanning, which collected 10 at a $1200 average and G & RJ Ballard, Tincurrin, which averaged $1750 across a team of 10.
Rounding out the bigger buyers in the sale were Westendale Grazing Co, Wagin, with eight head averaging $1906 while nine were knocked down to the AuctionsPlus account at a $1167 average.
THERE was plenty for the Thompson family, Moojepin Merinos, Katanning, to smile about even before their on-property sale got underway last week with the announcement they had sold a sire for a stud record price of $25,000.
The 2016-drop ram, Moojepin 160003, was on display at the stud's ram sale, along with a number of other stud sires and it caught the eye of northern Victorian breeders Robert Hooke and his son Will, Willera Merinos, Serpentine.
Moojepin co-principal Hamish Thompson said the Hookes initially asked if they could purchase a son of 160003 but they didn't want to let him go.
"They then came back and asked if they could by 160003 so we went away and thought about and gave them a figure and it went from there," Mr Thompson said.
"We have got a policy of keeping our sire battery young, we have already used him twice and we were only going to only use him once more, so in the end it was an offer we couldn't refuse.
"So instead of using him naturally this year we will just use him in our AI-program."
Mr Thompson said the price tag for 160003 was probably right when looking at what its sons averaged in the sale.
"In the sale he had 20 sons and they averaged more than $4200," Mr Thompson said.
The Polled ram is a son of Moojepin 110006 and is a trait leader (in top 10 per cent) on MerinoSelect for WWT (6.9), PWWT (8.8), PEMD (1.7), YCFW (30.9) and YSL (26.5).
Will Hooke said they weren't total strangers to the Moojepin bloodline as they had used semen from the stud before in two AI programs.
"We knew what was here and what to expect as my brother Karl and brother-in-law Simon Coutts, who are also part of our family operation, visited the stud a couple of years ago with our stud adviser Mark Ferguson," Mr Hooke said.
"We have to commend David and Hamish on their attention to detail in their breeding program and their sheep have some of the best figures in the country."
Mr Hooke said when he first saw 160003 it instantly stood out with its length of staple, which is something they were chasing.
"We shear twice a year and we need our flock to bit hitting 70mm staple length because of the contracts we have for our wool," Mr Hooke said.
"At the moment 40pc of our flock are hitting this length in six months but we want get a 100pc of the flock hitting this target."
But it wasn't just 160003's staple length which the Hookes liked, they were also impressed with its figures across the board.
"He has good fleece weight and good growth figures but also still has solid figures for eye muscle and fat," Mr Hooke said.
"He really the whole package of what we are trying to achieve.
"We are strong believers in regards to the direction of the Merino is headed to meet consumer expectations in regards to getting away from mulesing and improving lamb survival and we think this ram hits these marks."
The Hookes run 1200 Poll ewes in their stud flock, alongside a commercial ewe flock of 13,500 ewes and have contracts to sell all their wool through ZQ.