OUTSIDE forces played a hand in prompting a reduced offering at the ninth annual on-property Derella Downs and Pyramid Poll ram sale at Cascade recently.
Stud principals Scott and Sue Pickering had predicted a drop-off in demand due largely to seasonal factors and trimmed their team accordingly, cataloguing 48 less rams but still providing plenty of selection for the healthy crowd in attendance.
Having suffered one of their worst years on record in the region last year and with 2020 still hanging in the balance, Mr Pickering said he understood the necessity for several clients to cut stock numbers or exit livestock production all together.
"We ourselves carted more than one million litres of water and bought in enormous amounts of feed to keep our sheep going," Mr Pickering said.
"I was spending three full days a week carting water and that gets pretty tough."
While it added to the work load it did not mean any shortcuts on the stud's extensive testing, recording and breeding regime, with all rams presented with comprehensive ASBV data and measurements and showing raw data averages of 20.7 micron, 3.3 SD, 15.9 CV with staple length of 62mm and comfort factor of 99.6 per cent.
Of the 149 rams catalogued, 114 found new homes representing a 77 per cent clearance for a top price of $3200 and average of $1315, back on last year when 197 rams were offered with 147 sold for a $10,000 top price.
A highlight was the $74 increase in overall average from $1241 to $1315 with the 65 Poll Merinos sold, jumping $104 to average $1283 and 49 Merinos sold, averaging $1357, a $40 increase.
Long-time supporter Roger Nankivell, RA & JM Nankivell, Condingup, was back in force and again bid the day's top price of $3200 for a 20.6 micron Poll Merino with perfect (100pc) comfort factor in pen eight and $2500 for its 20.1 micron, 99.8 CF predecessor in pen seven, both sons of 2015 stud reserve Enright PP150990.
The sale-topper had ASBV figures of YWT 7.26, YFAT -0.31, YEMD -0.14, YCFW 19.46, YFD -0.34, YSL 8.4 and MP +150.
Mr Nankivell said he had sought free-growing white wools on rams with a good frame and square stance for use in a small ram breeding nucleus to satisfy requirements for a 1500 head ewe flock.
Like many, he had been grappling with a tough start to the season, but a 130mm rain event three weeks ago had provided some relief, filling water sources and boosting pastures, but more was needed for a spring flush.
Position one and two on the top price honours list mirrored last year with the Whiting family again bidding the day's second highest price, but this year it was for a Poll Merino, a 20.6 micron, 99.9 per cent CF son of 2016 stud reserve PP 160179.
Its ASBV figures were YWT 3.56, YFAT -0.66, YEMD -0.8, YCFW 16.19, YFD -1.04, YSL 4.17 and
Having bought 11 rams last year, the Whitings were successful on 15 rams this year, mostly horned and with many by new stud sire Wallaloo Park 112, bought for its wool quality for $52,000 in 2019.
With more than 40 sons in this year's team, including a few Polls, they proved popular.
Mr Whiting wanted bulkier wool types and said he had fought hard to keep his ewe flock of between 3000 to 4000 head in tact through the dry but had been forced to sell all dry sheep, including last year's entire ewe lamb drop.
The only highlight in a sad day was the solid on-farm price received.
"We'll never get out of sheep but we will cull harder in the next few years to work at getting better rather than bigger," Mr Whiting said.
In another dose of déjà vu Simon Fowler, Chilwell, was again the major volume buyer, selecting 30 Merino and Poll Merino rams for his 20,000 head ewe flock with assistance from Nutrien Livestock Breeding's Mitchell Crosby who did the bidding.
Mr Fowler put emphasis on white wools suited to their high rainfall coastal strip and plenty of frame, given they feedlot their own lambs amounting to throughput of 25,000 a year of buy-ins and home breds.
And he was happy to support local at a fixture offering substantial numbers to select from.
Nutrien Livestock Brindley & Chatley auctioneer Neil Brindley said this year's sale result reflected seasonal factors and the status of the wool industry, not the quality of the offering.
"We have seen plenty of situations of no water, a lack of feed and the loss of substantial numbers to Eastern States' restockers, plus many of the younger generation are pursuing diversification through different crop varieties rather than through livestock," Mr Brindley said.