IT was another big day for the Ledwith family's Kolindale stud at Dudinin last week when it hosted its annual on-property Merino, Poll Merino and White Suffolk ram sale.
Despite the bitterly cold wind which blew outside the shed, a season that is turning very quickly and a downturn in the wool market, there was still a good crowd of buyers in attendance who were full of spirit and ready to buy.
All up the Ledwith family put forward 457 rams which all showed the traits the Kolindale sheep are renowned for and with solid competition from 59 registered buyers, nearly all found new homes.
In the breakdown, there were 83 Merinos, 234 Poll Merinos and 140 White Suffolks offered and they all met with solid competition.
When the final ram was bowled over after close to five hours of selling and the numbers crunched, 444 or 97 per cent had sold under the hammer for a gross of $654,200 and an average of $1453, including an equal $6000 top price for a Merino and a Poll Merino ram.
Kolindale stud principal Luke Ledwith said he was really happy with how the sale had gone given the current seasonal and market conditions.
"I really want to thank our regular buyers and the new ones who supported the sale this year under the challenging conditions we are all facing," Mr Ledwith said.
"I thought it was the best line-up of rams we have put forward in terms of both breeds and to receive the support we did on them is very encouraging.
"We're constantly investing in our breeding programs, in particular doing a large amount of AI, so to achieve these results indicates we're hopefully going in the direction our clients need.
"We have really focused on the carcase traits, not only in the White Suffolks but also the Merinos which is now important given the position of the sheep and wool markets.
"Wool prices might be back at the moment but sheep prices are still really good, so there is still plenty of positives in the industry."
Merino and Poll Merino
It was another huge yarding of Merino and Poll Merino rams lined up by the Kolindale stud and the Elders selling team, led by auctioneers Nathan King and Preston Clarke, had the task to find new homes for them.
All up 317 rams were offered in the line-up and with solid buying support from returning and new clients, the majority of rams received good competition from multiple buyers.
By the end of the offering Mr King and Mr Clarke had cleared 311 or 98pc under the hammer to 43 different buyers for a combined gross of $496,600, a top of $6000 twice and an average of $1603, which was down from last year's strong average of $1952.
In the breakdown the Ledwith family offered and sold 83 Merinos at an average of $1643 (down $145) and 228 Poll Merinos sold from an offering of 234 at an average of $1589 (down $432).
The two rams to achieve the sale's $6000 top price were penned earlier in the catalogue in lots one and three and both saw substantial interest from around the shed before being knocked down at this value.
Penned in lot one and creating interest among buyers was an upstanding, big, square ram with a stylish crimpy wool.
After taking an opening bid of $3000 on the March shorn, shed-prepared ram, a number of parties jumped in on the action and put in bids to Mr King.
In the end it was Rockdale Farming Co's stock manager Dave Davis, Muntadgin, who prevailed as the winning bidder on the ram at $6000.
Mr Davis said the operation had purchased from Kolindale before and they liked this ram as it was a big square ram with a quality long-stapled wool.
The ram is a son of Kolindale 5 (green wool family) and was sold with current wool test figures of 21.0 micron, 3.5 SD, 16.7 CV and 99.4 per cent comfort factor (CF).
The operation is looking at joining 3500 ewes to Merino rams this season and another 1000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk sires, which will be a similar number to normal.
Next to hit the $6000 price tag in lot three was a quality woolled Merino sire which was also a son of Kolindale 5.
Taking this ram home after withstanding the bidding competition was return buyers of more than 10 years Ashley and Leah Starcevich, Cramphorne Farms, Muntadgin.
Mr Starcevich said they saw the ram at the WA Sheep Expo & Ram Sale at Katanning in August and picked it out.
"He has a nice, white, stylish, soft-handling wool which is free growing and easily opens up," Mr Starcevich said.
"He also has a nice make and shape."
The upstanding ram has current wool tests of 21.3 micron, 3.0 SD, 14.1 CV and 99.7pc CF.
Along with securing one of the equal top-priced rams, the Starcevichs also paid $4500 for another Merino ram which measured 18.8 micron, 2.7 SD and 99.9pc CF in the wool.
The Starcevichs will use both the rams in a nucleus flock of about 250 to 300 ewes to breed rams for their own use.
This year they are looking to join 4500 ewes all to Merino rams.
The operation is currently shearing and Mr Starcevich said their ewes were cutting well and the wool was looking good.
"We are not getting much tender wool, which is surprising given the season," Mr Starcevich said.
The Starcevich's flock averages 19.7 micron across all sheep while their mature sheep cut between seven and eight kilograms.
The second highest price in the shed was $4600 paid for a long, deep-bodied, March shorn Merino ram by repeat buyers the McCrea family, PL & LK McCrea & Lazy MC6 PT, Salmon Gums.
Buyer Peter McCrea said it was the ram's large body size and wool cutting ability which they liked.
"He is a big ram, with a good quality wool and plenty of it," Mr McCrea said.
The ram has wool figures of 20.2 micron, 2.9 SD and 99.9pc CF.
The McCrea family, who like the Kolindale sheep as they are big and do well in their area, also went home with a second ram, a Poll Merino at $2300.
Buying from the stud for the first time, Narembeen producer Noel Brayshaw made his presence felt at the top end of the sale, securing three March shorn, shed prepared Poll Merino rams to a top $3600 and an average of $3367.
Mr Brayshaw said all three rams he purchased had plenty of quality wool on them.
"They have good bold crimping wools and plenty of thickness in their staples," Mr Brayshaw said.
He paid $3600 for a 21.9 micron, 3.8 SD and 99.2pc CF ram which he will use in his nucleus ewe flock to breed rams for his own use.
Some of the leading buyers in the sale were father and daughter duo Jeff and Chloe Edwards, Brooklands Park Pastoral, Pingelly, who bid with the assistance of Elders stud stock representative Russell McKay.
The trio worked their way through the catalogue, showing their faith in the Merino and wool industry by purchasing a team of 35 Poll Merino sires to a top of $2100 and an average of $1394.
Mr Edwards said the operation had been buying from Kolindale for seven years and they liked the wool quality, size and doing ability of the Kolindale sheep.
"They are big, plain body sheep with white free growing wool and they are good doers," Mr Edwards said.
The operation's flock averages about 19-20 micron and this year they recorded a 115pc lambing to ewes mated.
This year the Edwards family is looking to join 6000 ewes all to Poll Merino rams.
Like past years, the Fowler family's Chilwell account, Condingup, featured regularly in the buying sheets.
This year with Nutrien Livestock Breeding representative Mitchell Crosby buying for them, the Fowlers secured a team of 34 including 15 Merinos and 19 Poll Merinos at an average of $1332 and to a top of $2000.
Richard Fowler said the family had been buying from the stud for eight years and liked the bright, white wools of the Kolindale sheep.
"The crimp in the wools is really good and they also have very good constitutions and do well in our area," Mr Fowler said.
The Chilwell mature ewe flock averages 21.2 to 21.8 micron with a cut of 6-7kg.
This year the operation will join 20,000 ewes to Merino and Poll Merino sires and is again hoping to achieve a 100pc lambing after pregnancy scanning.
There were a number of other buyers to have an influence on the sale in terms of both prices and numbers, including the Barrett and Tomsic families.
Return buyers of 15 years Paul and Tate Barrett, PM & MD Barrett, Jerramungup, who will join 3000 ewes to Merinos this year, worked their way through the catalogue and finished the sale with a team of 16 Merino and Poll Merino rams at an average of $2138 and to a top of $2700.
Paul Barrett said they continued to return and buy at Kolindale because the sheep performed well in their area.
"They are big framed sheep with wool cutting ability which suit our environment," Mr Barrett said.
This year the Barretts achieved a 100pc lambing to ewes mated, while their mature ewe flock averages 21 micron with the ewes cutting about 7.5kg.
Fellow return buyers the Tomsic family, E & H Tomsic, Karlgarin, buying with the support of Westcoast Wool & Livestock Hyden representative Lincon Gangell, secured a team of 13 Poll Merinos at an average of $2300 and to a top of $3100.
The operation paid $3100 for a 20.7 micron, 99.5pc CF ram.
Another buyer to purchase strongly from the Eastern Wheatbelt was Marlu Farms, Little Italy, which averaged $2167 across a team of 12 rams that topped at $3400.
There were many other buyers who were able to get their hands on teams of rams which resulted in the offering heading to properties in the Great Southern, Wheatbelt and Southern Coastal regions.
Elders auctioneer Nathan King said it was a really pleasing result given the seasonal and market conditions.
"It was the best sale line-up I have seen at Kolindale with the wool side coming along really well and the rams were a credit to the Ledwith family," Mr King said.
"It is not an easy job to put a shed full of more than 300 rams together that show good evenness.
"They are easy care, good framed Merinos with long-stapled, free-growing quality wools and it is because of this type the stud received buying support from far and wide.
"There was once again good competition throughout the offering which helped achieve a near-perfect clearance.
"In what has been an interesting year I think the vendors would be happy with the results and the support they received."
Before the Merinos got underway, the day kicked off with a very even yarding of 140 White Suffolk rams.
The Nutrien Livestock auctioneering team led by Michael Altus, rattled through them and when he knocked down the final ram, 133 had been sold to 20 different buyers under the hammer to a top of $2100 and for an average of $1185, which was up $115 on last year's result.
In last year's sale the stud offered 160 rams and sold 151 for an average of $1060.
Nutrien Livestock Breeding representative Roy Addis said it was a great quality yarding of White Suffolk rams.
"The stud has invested in quality genetics in the past few years and this investment shone through in the yarding of rams which displayed good structures, length of body and muscling," Mr Addis said.
"The offering was well supported by repeat clients and a handful of return buyers, ensuring a good clearance and prices.
"The clearance was very good given the seasonal conditions and the number of ewes which have left the system.
"Overall the final results both clearance and prices were certainly up on presale expectations."
The $2100 top price was paid by third-year buyers Trevor and Sophie Major, TR Major, Muntadgin.
Mr Major said the top-priced ram was an impressive sire and it stood out as soon as he saw it.
"He has really good size, good smooth shoulders and good length of body," Mr Major said.
The long, deep ram weighed in at 132kg and had scans of 49mm eye muscle depth (EMD) and 8mm fat.
Along with the top-priced ram, the Majors secured another at $2000 (equal second top price) which weighed 130kg and had scans of 50mm EMD and 8mm fat.
The two rams will join the Major's sire battery which will be joined to 600 Prime SAMM ewes to lamb in late March/early April.
Mr Major said they sold about half (320 lambs) of this year's lambs two weeks ago at weights of between 43 and 50kg, while the other half would be sold in the next two weeks.
The other ram in the sale to sell at the equal $2000 second top price was purchased by Altek Farms, Muntadgin.
This big barrelled ram weighed 139kg and had scans of 47mm EMD and 8mm fat.
The Muntadgin operation also paid $1700 for a 139kg ram with a 53mm EMD and 8mm fat.
Long-term client Jeremy James, JJJ Farms, Hyden, was again very supportive of the offering, purchasing seven rams to a top of $1900 and an average of $1614.
Mr James said the rams would join the operation's sire battery which would be joined to 1100 first-cross Prime SAMM ewes and 200 Merino ewes.
Mr James said he liked using the White Suffolk breed because of its ease of lambing, good growth rates and cleaner heads and tails which allows them to run them through spring with very few grass seed issues.
"I was chasing high growth rams with good muscling as we want to turn our lambs off at 18 to 22 weeks," Mr James said.
The operation drops its lambs over two lambings, at the end of April/May and May/June and turns half of them off as suckers in mid September/early October, while the rest are run through on stubbles and sold in January/February.
The clear volume buyer in the offering was again Nutrien Livestock Esperance Brindley & Chatley agent Darren Chatley who was purchasing on behalf of the Fowler family, Chilwell, Condingup.
Mr Chatley purchased 32 rams for the operation, paying to a top of $1500 on numerous occasions and an average of $1091.
The operation has been using White Suffolks for more than 10 years and Richard Fowler said they liked the breed because it crossed very well with Merinos.
"They produce quick maturing lambs with length of body and thickness," Mr Fowler said.
Chilwell will this year join 6000 to 7000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk sires for an April lambing.
Mr Fowler said they have already sold a significant number of this year's lambs as suckers to V&V Walsh at 22-23kg carcase weight.
Another sizeable buyer in the sale was first-time buyer Brad Cluett, Cluett & Sons, Porongurup, who has been using White Suffolk rams for more than 15 years.
Mr Cluett, who will mate 3000 Merino ewes to White Suffolks this year, purchased 12 rams at an average of $1100.
He said he was chasing good long, well-muscled rams with smooth shoulders for ease of lambing.
The operation lambs in early May and aims to turn off two thirds of its lambs as suckers at 19-20kg carcase weight, starting from about mid October, while the rest are finished and sold off stubbles.
Return Pingelly buyer AT & MD Pauley matched Mr Cluett in terms of numbers and went home with a ute load of 12 rams also.
The Pauleys paid to a high of $1500 on three occasions and averaged $1117 across their team.