WITH future demand for Australian lamb looking positive and the strong lamb prices of the past 12 months buyers were out in force and bid up strongly at this year's British and Australasian breed ram sales.
Given the number of ewes that have left the system in the past few years and this year's dry winter, many expected this year's British and Australasian breed sales to be back but they weren't.
In fact all their figures were up on last year and the $1102 overall average now stands as the highest ever recorded for British and Australasian breed sales.
Even though the season overall was up on last year, when you look at the results across the season it was still one of mixed results for not only the breeders but also the breeds, as some saw rises on last year while others saw figures dip.
For most of the past six years lamb prices have held up well and demand for WA lamb has been strong and this has ensured plenty of positivity in the industry.
Earlier in the year during autumn and winter, producers again saw lamb prices reach new highs, topping the record prices set 12 months earlier.
These prices peaked at $289 at Katanning on June 5 for heavyweight lambs.
When lambs hit this record high in early June, Meat and Livestock Australia's (MLA) weekly report, for the week ending Tuesday, June 11, reported restocker lamb (0-18kg carcase weight (CWT)) at 652c/kg, which was up 159c/kg (32 per cent) compared to 2018, while light lamb (12-18kg CWT) was at 740c/kg, which was up 149c/kg (25pc).
When it came to trade lamb (18-22kg CWT), it was reported at 862c/kg, equating to a 235c/kg (37pc) increase on the same week in 2018 and heavy lamb (22kg plus) sat at 876c/kg, up 290c/kg (49pc).
So with these stronger prices compared to last year and a positive outlook for the industry in terms of both international and domestic lamb markets, prime lamb producers showed they were prepared to invest in prime lamb sires despite the dry season which in turn resulted in a solid selling year for stud breeders.
When the final ram was knocked down at the last British and Australasian ram sale for the season last week, 4713 rams had been offered at 51 sales throughout WA, representing 11 breeds and their composites.
These numbers were once again dominated by the White Suffolk and Poll Dorset breeds which combined for 87 per cent of all rams offered.
Under the hammer 4146 rams were sold for a gross of $4,568,250 and an average of $1102.
Compared to 2018 there were 28 more rams offered, 110 more sold, while the gross increased by $239,125 and the averaged rose $29.
The percentage of rams offered to sold was 88 per cent, which was up 2pc on last year.
When ranked against the other seasons, this year's average ranks as the best on record, while the gross turnover ranks as the second biggest tallied.
The highest average prior to this year was $1095 in 2016, which was the same year the highest gross was recorded.
In that season 4857 rams were offered and 4350 sold for a gross of $4,763,050.
When you go back over the years you can really see exactly how the prime lamb industry has changed since 2000.
In that year 3597 rams were offered and 2352 sold under the hammer to a top of $4000, a gross of $813,011 and an average of just $346.
This year 21 sales (or 41pc) recorded an increase in average from 2018 ranging from $12 to $534, while three breeds equalled or improved their average.
However, it is all about the dollars in the pocket, so an improvement in gross is probably more important than a lift in average and there were 24 sales to record an improved gross, while four breeds saw their gross figure rise.
In terms of the number of rams offered and sold, 26 sales had equal or bigger offerings than 2018 and at 26 sales there were the same number or more rams sold and 10 sales notched up a complete clearance.
When it comes to breeds five breeds offered the same or more rams than last year, while four sold the same number or more rams and there were two breeds to achieve a total clearance.
For a third year in a row the White Suffolk breed claimed top price honours and three of the four top-priced rams for the year were White Suffolks.
The $15,500 top-priced British and Australasian breed ram for the season was sold by Brenton Addis's Yonga Downs White Suffolk stud, Gnowangerup, at the WA Elite White Suffolk and Suffolk Sale at Williams in August.
The ram was purchased by the Booloola stud, Baringhup, Victoria.
The ram, which is sired by Kohat 160291, was sold with LambPlan figures of 0.39 BWT, 12.2 WWT, 19.7 PWWT, 3.7 PEMD, 0.4 PFAT and a CarcasePlus index of 238.
The $14,000 second top-priced ram for the year was a Poll Dorset which was sold at the Perth Royal Show Stud Ram and Ewe sale.
The ram was sold by the Garnett family's Curlew Creek stud, Gnowangerup and was purchased by the Deloraine Downs Poll Dorset stud, Coleraine, Victoria.
The Hyde family's Kohat White Suffolk stud, Ongerup, sold the $12,200 third top-priced ram at the WA Elite White Suffolk and Suffolk Sale to the Golden Hill White Suffolk stud, Kukerin.
The $10,200 fourth top price ram for the season and final ram to sell for more than five figures was sold by the Golden Hill stud at the WA Elite White Suffolk and Suffolk Sale to DFD Rhodes, Boree Park stud, Boyup Brook.
The title for the highest grossing sale again went to the Heggaton family's BreedersBEST on-property sale at Kojonup.
All up there were 266 rams representing three breeds offered and by the completion of the sale, 265 had sold for a gross of $451,700 and an average of $1705.
In terms of gross results the only others to gross more than $200,000 were the Bowen family's Mount Ronan White Suffolk and Maternals sale, York ($236,000) and the Kojonup Triple S sale ($225,000).
There were another three sales to gross between $150,000- $200,000 and 13 others grossed between $100,000-$150,000.
All up 19 sales grossed more than $100,000 compared to 18 in 2018.
In the average stakes the WA Elite White Suffolk and Suffolk Sale took top honours when 15 White Suffolk and Suffolk studs recorded a $6385 average for the 12 rams which sold from 23 offered.
The IGA Perth Royal Show sale was the next highest average at $3543 with 15 studs selling 21 rams from 41 offered.
A further eight sales averaged more than $1200 - Pamellen dispersal ($3000); BreedersBEST ($1705); Mount Ronan ($1484); Te Rakau Texel, Wannamal ($1358); Yonga Downs ($1266); Hedingham White Suffolk, Wickepin ($1265); Wongan Hills ($1258) and Kohat ($1201).
A further 17 sales averaged $1000-$1200 to bring the number of sales averaging more than $1000 to 27, which was up nine compared to last year.
This year there were 21 sales to achieve an improvement in sale average, which ranged from $12 to $534, this included 10 sales that experienced a rise of $100 or more.
The biggest movers in the sale averages were Mount Ronan ($534); Hedingham ($382); Esperance Breeders ($346); Kolindale White Suffolk, Esperance ($346); Cheetara White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset, Narembeen ($229) and Glenbrook White Suffolk, Darkan ($220).
For a fourth consecutive year the White Suffolk breed took the mantle as the biggest selling breed ahead of the Poll Dorset breed.
This year White Suffolks featured in 36 out of the 51 sales (or 71pc) and made up 50pc of British and Australasian rams offered, 52pc of rams sold and 52pc of the season's gross return.
All up there were 2366 rams offered with 2156 sold under the hammer for a gross of $2,388,855 and an average of $1108.
The average was up $40 on last year when 2216 rams were offered and 1904 sold for an average of $1068 while there were 150 more rams offered and 252 more sold this season.
In addition to the three top White Suffolk prices mentioned earlier, the Fairclough family's Stockdale stud, York, topped the on-property sales when it sold a ram for $5800.
This price was followed by $4900 achieved by the Ida Vale stud, Kojonup and $4100 achieved by the Cheetara stud, at their annual sales.
There were 12 White Suffolk sales that grossed more than $100,000 this year and the one which recorded the largest gross was the Kolindale on-property sale, Dudinin, where 151 rams sold from 160 offered for a gross of $161,500.
The next biggest were the Golden Hill on-property sale grossing $145,700 for 122 rams sold from 137 offered, the Glenbrook sale with $137,000 for a complete clearance of 132 rams and the Stockdale sale $135,300 for 122 offered and sold.
These sales were also among the biggest in terms of numbers offered and sold.
There were nine sales all up where more than 100 White Suffolks were offered and the same number which cleared more than 100 rams under the hammer.
Other bigger sales included Rhos Gwyn/Matilda Downs, Mt Barker (128 offered, 126 sold, $109,500 gross), Ashbourne on-property, Katanning (119, 100, $117,800), Elders Albany (106, 103, $102,650); Lukin Springs on-property, Boyup Brook, (103, 102, $118,600) and Ridgetop on-property, Mt Barker (100, 100, $81,700).
In terms of averages, the WA Elite White Suffolk and Suffolk sale led the way for the breed with an average of $6358 for 12 rams sold from 18 offered.
Other strong sale averages were IGA Perth Royal Show ($2800); Mount Ronan ($1399), Wongan Hills ($1370), Esperance ($1356), Ashbourne at BreedersBEST ($1340), Cheetara ($1268), Yonga Downs ($1266); Hedingham ($1265) and Kohat ($1201), while another 10 averaged more than $1000, making it a total of 20 to average more than $1000, three more than last year.
White Suffolk studs to record strong results at multi-vendor sales included Fenwick Farm (20 offered, 20 sold, $1370 average) at Wongan Hills; Cascade (20, 20, $1575) and Macsfield (10, 10, $1300) at Esperance; Barby Downs (4, 4, $1125) at Quairading; Millinup (80, 80, $1023) and Wayandah (8, 8, $1013) at Elders Albany and Kantara (40, 33, $1058) at Wagin.
There were also good clearance rates in the White Suffolk breed, with nine sales (where more than 10 rams offered) achieving a 100pc clearance.
The overall clearance rate for the breed was 91pc which was back 5pc on 2018.
The Poll Dorset breed had to again settle as being the second biggest.
But unlike the White Suffolk breed, which experienced a rise in its figures across the board, the Poll Dorset breed saw its figures fall across the board compared to the 2018 season.
This year there were 1725 Poll Dorset offered at 29 sales and 1460 sold for a gross of $1,556,600 and an average of $1066.
Compared to last year when 1599 rams sold at auction from 1814 offered to average $1073 and gross $1,716,400, there were 89 less Poll Dorsets offered, 139 less sold while the average fell $7 and the gross dropped $159,800.
The clearance rate of 85pc was down from last year's 88pc with nine sales posting total clearances.
Poll Dorsets accounted for 37pc of the terminal sires offered, 35pc of rams sold and 34pc of the gross, down from 39pc, 40pc and 40pc respectively last year.
As previously mentioned the Curlew Creek stud sold the breed's top-priced ram at the Perth Royal Show ram sale but other prices of note were $5600 achieved by Shirlee Downs stud, Quairading and $4000 recorded by the Tipperary stud, Walkaway at the Perth Royal Show sale, while the Glencraobh stud, Kojonup, sold a ram for $4100 at the Kojonup Triple S sale.
The highest grossing sale for the Poll Dorset breed was the BreederBEST sale where 129 Sherwood prefix sires were offered and sold for a gross of $226,300.
This was followed by the Kojonup Triple S sale with a $166,500 gross for the 132 rams sold from 135 offered; Shirlee Downs and Dongadilling on-property sale, Quairading $136,600 for 131 rams sold from 178 offered, the Chapman Valley Breeders' Sale where 111 rams all cleared for a gross of $123,700 and Curlew Creek on-property sale $111,550 from 112 rams offered and sold.
The Perth Royal Show led the average stakes yet again with 14 rams selling from 26 offered at an average of $3936.
The next best were Sherwood at BreedersBEST $1754 for 129 rams offered and sold, $1263 at the Brimfield on-property, Kendenup for 46 from 52 sold and $1261 at Kojonup Triple S for 132 rams sold from 135 offered.
Other strong sale averages were Chapman Valley ($1114), Wilgarna on-property, Boyup Brook ($1054), Shirlee Downs/Dongadilling ($1043), Corrigin Breeders ($1025), Sandown, Carnamah ($1003) and Stockdale on-property ($1002).
In total 10 sales recorded averages of more than $1000, up from eight last year.
Studs worthy of a mention which achieved top results at multi-vendor sales were Orrvale (82, 82, $1221) and Glencraobh/Amberley (50, 50, $1328) at the Kojonup Triple S sale and Tipperary (63 offered, 63 sold, $1295) at Chapman Valley.
The Suffolk breed was again the third biggest with breeders offering 296 (down 38 rams) and selling 247 (down 42 rams) at clearance rate of 83pc, which was down 4pc on 2018.
The breed grossed $228,045 and averaged $923, which was down $65 on last year.
The top price for the breed was $3000 and it was achieved by the Pamellen stud, Clackcline, when it offered two rams in its stage two dispersal sale in August.
The next best price for the breed was $2900 which was achieved by the Karinya stud, Boyup Brook, when it sold a ram for this value at the Perth Royal Show.
The biggest numbers of Suffolk rams was seen at the Cheeryna on-property sale at Williams where a total clearance of 81 rams and an average of $1001 was recorded.
Other bigger offerings were at the Kojonup Triple S sale where the Karinya stud offered 44 rams and sold 34 for a $906 average while at the Blackbutt sale, Bencubbin, 32 rams were offered with 23 selling for a $619 average and at the Wongan Hills sale Fenwick Farm offered and sold 25 at a $1168 average.
Cheeryna was clearly the highest grossing sale at $81,050, followed by Triple S at $30,800 and Wongan Hills at $29,200.
The Perth Royal Show claimed top average honours (where more than one ram sold) with a figure of $2450, outside that it was Fenwick Farm at the Wongan Hills sale which was next best at $1168, followed by Cheeryna at $1001 and Kalinda stud, Boyanup, at the Darkan Breeders' sale at $920.
The next biggest breed in terms of numbers offered, sold and gross figures was the Prolific offered at the BreedersBEST on-property sale at Kojonup.
In the sale 94 rams were offered and 93 sold under the hammer to a top of $2800, a gross of $167,800 and an average of $1804, which was the highest average across all the British and Australasian breeds sold.
Compared to last year there were 24 more Prolific rams offered, 23 more sold, while the gross lifted $35,400 and the average was up $87.
The Maternal Composite breed rounded out the top five breeds when it came to the number of rams offered, sold and gross and these were all offered at the Mount Ronan on-property sale, York.
In addition to this the breed also achieved the second highest breed average of the British and Australasian breeds and recorded the largest improvement in average compared to 2018.
There were 79 Maternal Composite rams offered and sold this year to a top of $2900, an average of $1571 and a gross of $124,100.
These figures meant there were 34 more Maternal Composite rams sold, the gross was up $83,500 and the average lifted a large $669 on last year.
The Texel breed rounded out the five breeds, which sold more than 10 rams, to average more than $1000 this season.
All up 36 Texels sold from 44 offered at three sales to a top of $17 for a Te Rakau Texel and an average of $1222.
The Border Leicester and South Suffolk breeds rounded out the other breeds to offer more than 30 head.
This year 31 Border Leicesters sold from 60 offered at an average of $769, back $78 on last season while 35 South Suffolks sold from 41 offered to a top of $3200 and an average of $813, which was down $37 on 2018.