DRY seasonal conditions early in the year which saw many sheep leave the area and a significant downturn in the wool market in the past six months both had an impact on the final sale result at last week's Esperance Breeders' Ram Sale.
Unlike past years, buyers were subdued in their bidding and on occasions it made for hard work for Nutrien Livestock auctioneer Neil Brindley and Elders auctioneer Preston Clarke as they tried to get the best returns possible for the vendors.
In the sale, which will be one of biggest multi-vendor, multi-breed sales for the season, 12 studs offered a combined yarding of 293 Merino, Poll Merino, Dohne, White Suffolk, Suffolk and White Suffolk composite rams in the sale and they were well received by the 51 registered buyers, but at the end of the day the reduced competition saw a reduced number of rams sold and the overall sale average back on last year.
In the Merino section prices regularly went beyond the $2000 mark and topped at $3500, while in the prime lamb sire side of the catalogue, five White Suffolk rams sold to a high of $1400.
When the final figures were crunched a mix of local buyers and those from further afield cleared 77 per cent or 225 rams under the hammer after two and half hours of selling for a total gross of $241,500 and an average of $1073.
In comparison to last year's sale when the wool market was more favourable and early dry seasonal conditions had been better, there were 41 less rams offered this year and 54 less sold, while the clearance fell 7pc, the gross was back $116,200 and the average dropped $209.
Mr Brindley, who encouraged buyers to bid up as he kicked the sale off due to the high quality of the yarding and the solid sheep and lamb markets.
"The results for the Merino breeders were back on previous years but not unexpected and they were about where I thought they would be," Mr Brindley said.
"They were probably a reflection of the current position of the wool market and the early dry seasonal conditions which saw many ewes leave the Esperance area as producers struggled for water and this is still an issue.
"The clearance and overall average for the Merinos was certainly not a reflection of the quality of the offering.
"It was a very good offering of Merino and Poll Merino rams and the breeders have done a great job given the seasonal conditions they have come through.
With the Macsfield White Suffolk stud's, Condingup, $1300 top-priced sire were Nutrien Livestock Brindley and Chatley Esperance agent Darren Chatley (left), Macsfield's Matt McDonald, buyer representative Nicole Warner, Coolindown Farms, Esperance and John McDonald.
"In terms of the prime lamb sires they also presented very well and were a credit to the vendors.
"I think they sold above expectations given the number of ewes that have left the area.
"We put up twice as many rams in the section compared to last year and cleared most of them which is probably a reflection of the positive lamb market."
Mr Clarke said the final sale result was a reflection of seasonal conditions and the current position of the wool market.
"The dry season and lack of water has seen a lot of sheep leave the area and this combined with the falling wool market certainly was at the front of buyers' thoughts," Mr Clarke said.
"With the reduced ewe numbers buyers didn't need as many rams and they were also more cautious in their purchasing given the downturn in the wool market.
"Overall it was a very good offering of rams which were a credit to the breeders and the final result was certainly not a reflection of the quality of the offering."
With the Brimlo Suffolk stud's, Grass Patch, offering of Suffolk rams were Callum O'Neill (left), Elders Esperance, Brimlo principal Tim Starcevich and the stud's top price buyer David Milne, Condingup.
Merino and Poll Merino
The Merino and Poll Merinos were the first offered and made up the majority of the rams in the shed.
In this side of the catalogue four studs offered a smaller yarding of 202 rams on the back of knowing there was going to be reduced demand and by the end of the run 146 had sold under the hammer to a top of $3500 and for an average of $1168, which was back $158 on last year.
In comparison in last year's sale 219 rams sold from 272 offered at an average of $1326.
The Vandenberghe family's Wattle Dale stud, Scaddan, led the charge in this section, not only offering the largest team but also recording the day's $3500 top price.
In the sale the Vandenberghe family offered 140 rams, 20 less than last year and unfortunately with reduced buying support compared to previous years, as a result of the dry season, only cleared 87 under the hammer at an average of $1018.
Last year in the sale the stud offered 160 rams and sold 131 at an average of $1470.
The $3500 top price came in the first run of Wattle Dale rams when a free-growing, long-bodied ram catalogued in lot 38 went under the hammer.
Mr Brindley took an opening bid of $1000 on the Poll Merino ram and from there a bidding war erupted between a number of interested buyers.
In the end it was second year buyer Nils Blumann, P & N Blumann, Gibson, who had the final $3500 bid with the losing bidder being return buyer Andrew Bott, Bott Livestock, Munglinup.
Mr Blumann said the ram had the genetics he was looking for which would improve his flock.
"He is also a well-structured ram with good Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) especially in terms of his wool," Mr Blumann said.
The 106 kilogram, 17.8 micron ram ranks in the top 5pc on MerinoSelect for YCFW at 36.3, Merino Production (MP) index at 181 and Merino Production Plus (MP+) index at 192 as well as top 30pc for YWT at 7.3.
The single-raised ram is by Pooginook 140961.
Mr Blumann, who breeds his own rams for his 5000-head ewe flock that are all mated to Merinos, said his aim is to breed a plain-bodied Merino with good yearling weight, good eye muscle, a high wool cut and high fertility.
"Our flock currently averages 19 micron and one of our major objectives is to increase our wool cut," he said.
Like many WA sheep producers this year Mr Blumann was able to capitalise on the strong demand from Eastern States' producers when selling off his surplus sheep.
He sold a line of 979 ewe lambs, after he had taken off his top 1200 head, for $231 to the Eastern States.
The second highest price in the Wattle Dale run was $2800 achieved on three occasions.
Return buyer Laurina Farms, Esperance, purchased two of the rams to hit the $2800 mark within the first 10 offered by the stud.
They paid the value for the stud's team leader a Poll sire which is in the top 5pc of MerinoSelect for YWT (10.8) and the MP index (169) plus top 30pc for YCFW and the MP+ index.
The second ram the operation purchased for $2800 that was catalogued in lot seven was also a Poll and ranks in the top 5pc for YWT (10.7) and MP index (172), as well as top 10pc for the MP+ index (175).
The operation also purchased a third ram from the Wattle Dale team at $1300.
The third ram to hit $2800 was purchased by the Milne family, DJ & M & MDJ Milne, Condingup East, who purchased another sire at $800.
The Milnes, bid to $2800, for a well-structured Poll ram which ranks in the top 5pc for YCFW (32.6), MP index (167) and MP+ index (182) and top 30pc for YFD at -1.5.
Despite losing out on the top-priced ram, the Bott family continued to bid up strongly in the rest of the Wattle Dale run finishing with a team of eight sires at a $1250 average and to a top of $2300.
The Botts top-priced ram was a long-stapled, white woolled Poll sire which ranks in the top 5pc for YWT and the MP index
Regular Wattler Dale buyers JC & TB Sullivan, Gibson, was also keen on the stud's rams and averaged $1450 over a team of four, which topped at $2300.
The Sullivans paid to a high of $2300 for a stretchy Poll ram which ranks in the top 5pc for YFD, YWT and the MP index.
Also not afraid to bid up was L & C O'Shannessy, Esperance, securing five rams at an average of $1240 including Wattle Dale's top priced Merino ram at $2100.
The 122kg, 17.8 micron Merino ram ranks in the top 5pc for YCFW, MP index and MP+ index.
The volume buyer in the Wattle Dale run was the Piggott family, Lauriana Pty Ltd, Esperance, who finished the day with a baker's dozen (13 rams) at $792 average and to a top of $1500.
There were two other buyers to go home with double figure teams in the Wattle Dale run, when they both loaded 10 rams onto their utes.
Return Boyup Brook buyers Wayne and Robyn White, WR White & Son, averaged $990 over a team of 10 which topped at $1600, while repeat stud buyers RJ & RJ Marold, Esperance, purchased 10 to a high of $1000 and an average of $680.
The Welke family's Westwood Poll Merino stud, Cascade, was the only Merino stud to sell more rams than last year and record a lift in their average.
The stud offered and sold 30 rams to a high of $2500 on four occasions and for a $1580 average, the highest of any Merino stud recorded on the day.
In comparison to last year Westwood recorded a rise in average of $168 and sold four more rams.
Return buyer Daniel Dempster, Karabein stud, Northam, purchased two of Westwood's $2500 top-priced rams.
The first ram knocked down to Mr Dempster at $2500 was a large-framed, well-covered 112kg 20.8 micron sire with ASBVs of 28.0 YCFW, -0.3 YFD, 8.2 YWT, 0.1 YFAT, 0.5 YEMD as well as indexes of 164 for DP+ and 164 for MP+.
Also heading to Northam on the Dempster's ute at $2500 was a long-stapled, long-bodied 19.0 micron ram that has ASBVs of 19.4 YCFW, -1.4 YFD, 11.4 YWT, 1.0 YFAT, 0.1 YEMD as well as indexes of 168 for DP+ and 166 for MP+.
Both rams were twin born and sired by Leahcim 2775.
Second year buyer Epasco Farms, Condingup, pushed hard on the rams it wanted and also secured one of Westwood's $2500 equal top-priced rams among a team of five which averaged $1780.
Its $2500 purchase, which was by Wallaloo Park 245 and measured 19.3 microns, had ASBVs of 15.0 YCFW, -0.1 YFD, 3.1 YWT, 0.8 YFAT, 1.4 YEMD as well as indexes of 160 for DP+ and 147 for MP+.
Epasco Farms' farm manager Nick Ruddenklau said the operation was chasing growthy rams with good carcase traits.
"We like the fact that Westwood has ASBVs and we look carefully at the carcase and wool cut figures," Mr Ruddenklau said.
"We are trying to breed a dual-purpose animal, we want to maintain our wool quality but are making a real effort to improve the carcase side.
"We want to produce an animal that will provide us with more flexibility when it comes to selling our stock.
"Given the current position of the wool market, producing an animal with better carcase traits is going to become more important."
The operation is looking at this year joining 18,000 ewes all to Merino sires and a couple of the rams purchased will be used in its nucleus flock of 350-head to breed rams for its own use.
Rounding out the buyers to bid to $2500 for a Westwood ram was return stud buyer D Piercey & Co, Esperance, which paid the value for a stretchy, stylish woolled 19.2 micron ram by Wallaloo Park 245.
The ram had ASBVs of 18.9 YCFW, -1.0 YFD, 6.3 YWT, 0.3 YFAT, 0.8 YEMD as well as indexes of 167 for DP+ and 158 for MP+.
The operation also paid $1500 for another Westwood ram during the sale.
Other good supporters of the Westwood catalogue were Mark Walter, Walter Ag, Cascade, who averaged $1260 over a team of five that topped at $2000 and JA Russell Australia Pty Ltd, Esperance, which secured a team of four at a $1350 average and to a high of $1700.
Return buyers of 10 years Leigh and Karina West, Karleigh Farms, Gibson, may have not bought numbers but they were not afraid to bid up, securing two rams both at $2200.
The Wests, who will join 1500 ewes all to Merino sires this year, said they liked the Westwood sheep because they were good in terms of both carcase and wool traits.
"They are good easy-care, modern sheep," Mr West said.
The Pengilly family, Penrose stud, Cascade, dropped their offering by 30 rams this year, putting forward 20 Poll Merinos for buyers to select from.
By the end of the run 19 had found new homes after selling to a top of $2300 and an average of $1311, which was up $352 on last year.
Last year the stud cleared 34 rams from 50 offered at an average of $959.
Taking top price honours at $2300 in the Penrose team was an upstanding, stylish, long-stapled 20.1 micron, 99.4pc comfort factor ram when it was knocked down to repeat buyer D Piercey & Co.
The 98kg ram has ASBVs of 27.5 YCFW, 5.9 YWT, 0.0 YFAT, 0.1 YEMD and indexes of 165 MP+ and 163 Dual Purpose Plus (DP+).
Along with securing the top-priced Penrose ram, the Piercey family also purchased another three Penrose sires to finish the day with four at a $1450 average.
The volume buyer in the Penrose run was return client of six years Paul Ietto, Allannaluke Farms, Grass Patch, who finished the sale with six sires to a top of $1600 and an average of $967.
Mr Ietto said he liked the Penrose sheep as they were easy-care sheep with good free-growing wools.
The operation is looking at joining 2000 ewes this year, all to Merino ewes which is back on previous years as Mr Ietto said they had reduced their numbers by 300 head this year and 700 head in 2018.
Another good supporter of the Penrose run was the Bott family, Bott Livestock, which purchased three rams to a top of $2100 twice and an average of $2067.
The Botts paid $2100 for a 95.8kg ram with indexes of 156 MP+ and 155 DP+ and a 110kg sire with indexes of 166 MP+ and 166 DP+.
Esperance operation LG Norwood also paid $2100 for a Penrose sire, which was one of two rams secured by the operation.
The Gibson family's Nairnup stud, Munglinup, rounded out the Merino studs to offer in the sale.
The stud put forward a team of 12 rams for buyers to select from and 10 headed to new homes after selling to a top of $1400 and an average of $960.
The Starcevich family, DM & S Starcevich, Brimlo Farms, Salmon Gums, secured the stud's top-priced ram at $1400 among a team of three Merino sires at an average of $1167.
The top price ram had wool figures of 19.6 micron, 3.4 SD, 17.3 CV and 99.7pc CF.
Also in the Starcevich's purchases was a ram at $1300 which measured 19.9 microns, 3.3 SD, 16.6 CV and 99.9pc CF in the wool.
The biggest buyer in the Nairnup offering was FC Delacy & Co, Nungarin, which purchased three Merinos and one Poll Merino all at $800.
The other buyer of Nairnup sires was Brad and Cassidy Whiting, BT Whiting & Co, Munglinup, who purchased two rams at $1000 and a third at $800.
This year four White Suffolk studs offered 59 rams between them and by the end of the breed's run, 56 had been sold under the hammer for an average of $1014, which was back $342 on last year, when 36 White Suffolks were offered and sold for a $1356 average.
Leading the way in the White Suffolk run was Scott Welke's Cascade stud, Cascade, who offered and sold the largest team, as well as selling all five $1400 equal top-priced prime lamb sires.
By the end of stud's offering of 30 rams all had sold at an average of $1110, which was back $465 on its 2019 sale result when it offered and sold 20 rams at a $1575 average.
Picking up four of Cascade's $1400 equal top-priced rams was Brad and Cassidy Whiting.
The Whitings picked up three twin-born, Ella Matta 170300 sons weighing 112kg, 113kg and 112kg and a single weighing 90kg.
The four rams had terminal carcase production (TCP) index values of 154, 147.1, 153.7 and 131.7.
The Whitings, who purchased from the Cascade stud for the first time last year, said they were chasing long-bodied rams which were well put-together and with good smooth shoulders to ensure less lambing issues.
Not only did the Whitings buy four of Cascade's top-priced rams, they also purchased another seven sires from the stud to finish with a team of 11 at an average of $1200 to be the stud's volume buyer.
The operation is aiming to join 1800 Merino ewes to White Suffolk sires this year, which is a similar number to last year.
Mr Whiting said generally they run their lambs through on their stubble before selling them at about 23 to 24 kilogram carcase weight.
The fifth ram in the Cascade team to make $1400 was purchased by JA Russell, who finished with a team of eight sires from Cascade at an average of $1088.
The operation paid $1400 for a 107kg Ella Matta 170300 son which had LambPlan figures of 0.4 BWT, 11.1 WWT, 17.8 PWWT, 0.0 PFAT, 2.5 PEMD and TCP index of 160.2.
Other multiple ram buyers in the Cascade run were Neville Welke & Son, Esperance and DH & RM Bruhm, Esperance, which both purchased four rams at an average of $1050.
The McDonald family, Macsfield stud, Condingup/Beaumont, achieved a top of $1300 and an average of $915 for its team of 13 White Suffolk sires offered and sold.
The $1300 top-priced Macsfield sire was purchased by first-time buyer Coolindown Farms, Condingup, which also secured a second Macsfield sire at $1100.
The operation's top price purchase weighed 116kg, while the other ram they secured weighed 104kg.
Buyer Josh Lay said the top-priced ram was a good meaty, clean pointed sire with sleek, smooth shoulders.
The operation runs 3500 Merino ewes all up with about 700 joined to White Suffolks and Mr Lay said they aimed to turn their White Suffolk cross lambs off as suckers.
There were four other buyers in the Macsfield run to all go home with two rams each and they were DJ & M MDJ Milne ($900 average); GB & MP Harris, Grass Patch ($1000 average); BT Whiting & Co ($1050 average) and Vandenberghe Partners, Scaddan ($600 average).
The Greendale stud, Esperance, returned to the sale this year and offered and sold 10 rams for an average of $950.
The top price in the Greendale run was $1200, twice paid by return buyer Chris Humphrys, CJ Humphrys, Esperance, for rams which both weighed 92kg.
Mr Humphrys, who is intending to mate 900 to 950 Merino ewes to White Suffolk sires this year, also purchased two other Greendale rams at $1100 and $800.
He said he liked the Greendale rams because they produced quick maturing, growthy lambs.
Also buying multiple lots from Greendale were JA Russell, which averaged $933 over a team of three and Vandenberge Partners, which secured two at $900 and $800.
The Brimlo stud rounded out the studs to offer White Suffolk sires and its offering consisted of six rams of which three sold under the hammer at an average of $700.
The stud's top price was $900 paid by the return buyers the Milne family, DJ & M & MDJ Milne.
The stud's other two rams, which were sold, were both purchased at $700 by Vandenberhge Partners.
White Suffolk Composite
Tanya Hill, Tanalan stud, Esperance, was another vendor back in the sale this year with a team of six White Suffolk composite sires and all sold for an average of $650.
The top price in the offering was $900 and it was paid by PJ Willis, Esperance.
The ram has LambPlan figures of 0.33 BWT, 9.0 PWT, 14.8 PWWT, -0.5 PFAT, 1.4 PEMD and a TCP index of 137.1.
The other five Tanalan rams were all purchased by BT Whiting & Co at $600.
There were two studs to offer Suffolk rams in this year's sale and when the numbers were crunched 12 of the 14 Suffolks offered had sold for an average of $625.
The biggest vendor in the run was the Brimlo stud which offered 10 rams and sold eight to a $800 top and a $638 average.
The stud's $800 top ram was purchased by the Milne family who also purchased another two rams from the stud at $700 and $600.
David Milne said this was the third year they have purchased rams from the stud and they were very happy with their past purchases.
"They are doing a really good job and breeding some good lambs," Mr Milne said.
"They sire little lambs which get up and grow."
The Milnes are aiming to mate 800 ewes to White Suffolk and Suffolk rams this year.
The other five rams sold by the Brimlo stud were all knocked down at $600 to repeat buyer Oake Marsh Farm, Esperance.
Oake Marsh Farm was busy in the Suffolk run as it also picked up all four rams offered by the Esperance Farm Training Centre's Escholar stud at $600 each.
The Lowe family's C-View Dohne stud, Esperance, again presented a team of Dohne rams.
This year they offered 12 rams and cleared five under the hammer at an average of $560 and to a top of $600 on three occasions.
All three rams which made the $600 top price were sold to Wongutha CAPS, Esperance.
The three rams had Dohne indexes of 160.62, 165.33 and 151.30.
The other buyer in the C-View offering was NE & MM Wiech & Son, Esperance, which bought two rams both at $500.