BUYERS chasing quality, bright, white-woolled rams with plenty of cutting ability were out in force at the Westerdale on-property Poll Merino ram sale at McAlinden and pushed prices to a high of $6200.
With the strong support from a long list of return buyers chasing the quality 'true blue' wools the stud is renowned for, the sale was solid and consistent throughout as buyers showed they still had faith in the wool industry despite the market volatility of the past few months.
When the final ram was knocked down by Elders auctioneer Nathan King, the Jackson family had cleared 142 of 144 rams offered under the hammer for a healthy average of $1881, which was back $345 on last year's extremely strong sale.
In last year's sale the Jackson family sold 143 from 144 rams at an average of $2226 and to a top of $15,250, plus there were another three rams to sell above this year's top price contributing to last year's higher average.
Mr King said the final sale result was extremely pleasing for the Jackson family with the stud achieving a fantastic clearance and very strong average even thought it was back on last year.
"It was a very consistent and solid sale from start to finish in terms of the prices and this was certainly a reflection of the very even line-up of rams offered," Mr King said.
"It was very good line-up of heavy cutting, stylish white wool rams and very typical of the Westerdale type and the reason people come to buy the rams.
"The rams to me presented a bit better than previous years which was probably a result of the slightly drier season and the line-up was a credit to the Jackson family.
"Like most sales this year the average was back significantly on last year but it was still very good, given the near perfect clearance.
"We didn't have the real highs of the past few years in the sale which certainly had a bearing on the overall average, but I think the sale was stronger over the last 50 or so rams compared to last year."
With such an even line-up of rams, it was easy to see why the sale was solid throughout.
Along with presenting extremely well the rams also had impressive wool figures to match.
The team's average May wool figures were 18.4 micron, 3.1 SD, 17.1 CV, 99.7 per cent comfort factor (CF) and a 5.1 kilogram greasy fleece weight (GFW) for six months growth.
Leading the way for the stud and achieving the sale's $6200 top price was a deep-bodied, heavy cutting ram in pen five.
Mr King took an opening bid of $4000 on the ram and fielded a flurry of bids on it from a number of interested buyers.
But in the end it was return buyers of more than five years Daniel and Chanyanit Hansberry, Daniel Hansberry Family Trust, Orchid Valley (via Kojonup), who outlasted them all and had the final $6200 bid to earn the right to take the ram home.
Mr Hansberry said the ram was a good allround sire.
"He is a good heavy cutting type, with a quality, soft-handling wool," Mr Hansberry said.
"He is also a nice deep-bodied sheep with plenty of volume."
The well-covered, quality white-woolled ram had wool figures of 19.6 micron, 3.5 SD, 18.0 CV, 99.4pc CF and 7.4kg GFW.
Mr Hansberry said the ram would be used in the operation's nucleus flock of 240 ewes to breed rams for their own use.
The operation runs a 2700-head ewe flock with 2500 head mated to Merinos while 200 head are joined to Poll Dorset sires.
The second top price in the sale was $5200 paid by Clive Drage, Lindsay stud, Mt Barker, who purchased from the stud for the first time last year with the aim of introducing some Poll genetics into his predominantly Merino stud.
"I think the Westerdale bloodline is a good match for us in our environment as the Westerdale stud is run in a similar climate and similar country to our flock," Mr Drage said.
When it comes to the ram he selected this year he said it has a stylish, soft, fine, white, free-growing wool which would stand up to their high rainfall.
"Along with his good structure and top wool quality his figures, including micron, CV and comfort factor were also very good."
The long-bodied, very bright, white woolled ram had wool figures of 17.9 micron, 3.1 SD, 17.2 CV, 100pc CF and a 5.4kg GFW.
The ram will join Mr Drage's sire battery and will be used in his stud flock of 400 ewes to breed rams for his own use to use in his commercial operation in which he mates 1500-1600 ewes to Merino rams.
Long-term client DFD Rhodes Pty Ltd, Boyup Brook, was again a strong supporter at the top end of the sale but it didn't have as big an influence, on the overall sale result as in past years.
This year the operation secured three rams at an average of $3200, including two at $3600, which was the third highest price in the sale.
They paid $3600 for the first ram offered in the sale which had wool figures of 19.6 micron, 3.4 SD, 17.2 CV, 99.4pc CF and 6.1kg GFW, while its second purchase at $3600 came much close to midway through the sale for a ram which had wool figures of 17.7 micron, 3.1 SD, 17.7 CV, 99.9pc CF and 6.2kg GFW.
A third ram in the sale made $3600 when it was knocked down to Semlot Nominees, Collie.
The long-bodied, quality woolled ram carried wool figures of 18.7 micron, 3.2 SD, 17.1 CV, 99.8pc CF and 5.8kg GFW.
There were a number of buyers that secured sizeable drafts at the top end and the biggest of these of were return buyers of 13 years the Smith family, Marlo Farm Nominees, Gnowangerup.
With the assistance of Colin Kingston, Phyllis, Brad and Roz Smith, worked their way through the catalogue and ended the day with 11 rams at an average of $2555.
They paid to a top of $3500 for an 18 micron, 99.9pc CF ram which had a 5.3kg GFW.
The Smiths, who will mate 1700 ewes this year all to Merinos return each year to buy from Westerdale as the bloodline produces good productive sheep for them which grow out well in the Gnowangerup area.
"They have good frames, are easy-care and cut plenty of wool," Mr Smith said.
Clients of the stud since it was founded Ronald and Helen Tuckett, RL & HM Tuckett, Boyup Brook, were also front and centre throughout the sale securing a team of 10 rams to a top of $2900 and an average of $2480.
Mr Tuckett said they have continued to return and buy at Westerdale over such a long period as the Westerdale sheep have the wool quality to withstand the high rainfall of the Boyup Brook area.
"But it is not only the quality wools I like, they also cut plenty of it," Mr Tuckett said.
The Tucketts this year are looking to mate 3000 ewes to Merinos and another 1600 Merino ewes to Poll Dorset sires.
Also pushing prices at the top end was the Rutherford family, IG & SB Rutherford & Sons, Duranillin, who averaged $2543 for a team at seven after they left a buying order with Elders Darkan agent Wayne Peake, while DR & SE Earnshaw, Duranillin, secured four rams at a $2350 average.
After buying at his first Westerdale sale, two years ago Craig Power, Power Grazing, Busselton, was the volume buyer at this year's sale when he put together a team of 20 rams to a top of $2900 and an average of $1665 with the assistance of his farm manager Brooke Kelly and Westcoast Wool & Livestock South West representative Mat Lowe.
Mr Power said they were chasing rams with good wools to handle the rain but they also had to have good, big bodies to allow them to breed a Merino which will give them flexibility when it comes to turning off stock.
"We are really happy with the two drops of lambs we have on the ground and the first drop which are now hoggets would be shorn in two weeks," Mr Power said.
"Peter (Jackson) came down recently and classed the first-drop of ewe hoggets and out of 1400 he got a top line of 800 head," Mr Power said.
"They actually surprised him how well they had handled the high rainfall.
"They are pretty much the type of sheep we have set out to breed, the ewe hoggets have good bodies with quality white wools which can handle the high rainfall on our properties which are spread out from Busselton to Witchcliffe."
The operation is currently running a total of 12,000 Merinos across its properties, many of the dry sheep are run through vineyards and this year it will mate 4000 ewes to Westerdale Poll Merino rams.
There were two other buyers to purchase double figure teams.
Return buyers of 25 years Martin and Debra Carroll, MT & DJ Carroll, Boyup Brook, secured 11 rams at a $1645 average while Bonfield Farms, Boyup Brook, purchased 12 head at a $1342 average.
The Carrolls, who will mate 2300 ewes to Westerdale sires this year and 500 Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams, said they liked the Westerdale bloodline for its bright, white wools which suit the South West environment and also because the rams breed sheep with good frames and constitutions.
Other return buyers to secure numbers were G & A Watts, Pingelly, averaging $1750 for a team of eight, while Stretch Enterprises, Kojonup, purchased nine head at a $1711 average and TJ & KL Sloan, Bowelling, secured eight averaging $1163.