IT'S been a good couple of years for sheep producers when it comes to lamb prices and British and Australasian ram sales this year were the beneficiaries as buyers pushed hard to keep their programs ticking along.
Prices have been at record levels again over the past 12 months on the back of global demand for quality sheepmeat outstripping supply and they are expected to remain high into the future.
On the back of this positive future outlook 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 another dry year in 2020, not many expected this year's British and Australasian breed sales to unfold like they did with the overall average reaching its highest ever level at $1225 and the gross of more than $4699 million ranking as the second biggest collected.
While the dollars were strong, the number of rams offered and sold were back, no doubt a reflection of the lower number of ewes in the system.
For most of the past seven 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.
This year lamb prices peaked in late February and early March and during this period producers regularly saw prices of more than $200 a head for their heavyweight lambs.
The strong markets have continued throughout the spring with new season sucker lambs making upwards of $130.
So with these strong prices 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 resulting in a solid selling year for most stud breeders.
When the final ram was knocked down at the last British and Australasian ram sale for the season last week, 4331 rams had been offered at 46 sales throughout the State, representing 10 breeds and their composites.
These numbers were once again dominated by the White Suffolk and Poll Dorset breeds which combined for 85 per cent of all rams offered.
Under the hammer 3838 rams were sold for a gross of $4,700,555 and an average of $1225.
Compared to 2019 there were 382 less rams offered, 308 less sold, while the gross increased by $132,305 and the average rose $123.
The percentage of rams offered to sold was 89 per cent, which was up 1pc on last year.
When ranked against the other seasons, this year's average ranks as the best on record, bettering last year's record breaking $1102 result easily, while the gross turnover ranks as the second biggest tally.
The highest gross prior to this year was in 2016.
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 22 sales (or 48pc) recorded an increase in average from 2019 ranging from $33 to $1065, while nine 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 eight breeds saw their gross figure rise.
In terms of the number of rams offered and sold, 21 sales had equal or bigger offerings than 2019 and at 20 sales there were the same number or more rams sold and 11 sales notched up a complete clearance.
When it comes to breeds, four breeds offered the same or more rams than last year, while four sold the same number or more rams and there were five breeds to achieve a total clearance.
For a fourth year in a row the White Suffolk breed claimed top price honours and two of the four top-priced rams for the year were White Suffolks.
The $29,250 top-priced British and Australasian breed ram for the season was sold by Andrew Greenup and Tamesha Gardner's Ida Vale White Suffolk stud, Kojonup, at the WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset Sale at Williams in August.
The ram set a State record price for a White Suffolk ram sold at auction in WA.
The ram was purchased by an Eastern States' syndicate comprising the Booloola and Charinga studs, Victoria and Induro stud, New South Wales.
The ram, which is by Ashmore 17-293, was sold with LambPlan figures of 0.25 BWT, 12.3 WWT, 19.6 PWWT, 2.6 PEMD, -0.1 PFAT and a terminal carcase production (TCP) index of 153.6.
The $19,200 second top-priced ram was a Shirlee Downs Poll Dorset which was sold at the Shirlee Downs/Dongadilling Poll Dorset and White Suffolk on-property ram sale at Quairading.
The ET-bred ram, which had LambPlan figures of 0.6 BWT, 10.3 WWT, 15.8 PWWT, -0.8 PFAT, 1.5 PEMD and a TCP index of 139.7, was purchased by the Orrvale Poll Dorset stud, Kojonup.
The Heggaton family's Sherwood Poll Dorset stud, Kojonup, sold the $10,600 third top-priced ram at their BreedersBEST Genetics on-property sale to the Ipsen family, Twin Lakes, Manjimup.
The $10,000 fourth top price ram and final ram to sell for more than five figures, was sold by the Yonga Downs White Suffolk stud, Gnowangerup, at the WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset sale to Kalgan White Suffolk stud, Denmark.
The title for the highest grossing sale again went to the Heggaton family's BreedersBEST on-property sale at Kojonup.
All up there were 277 rams representing three breeds offered and by the completion 276 had sold for a gross of $467,600 and average of $1694.
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 ($458,900), Shirlee Downs/Dongadilling ($284,000) and the Kojonup Triple S sale ($216,900).
There were another five sales to gross between $150,000-$200,000 and all up 17 sales grossed more than $100,000 compared to 19 in 2018.
In the average stakes the WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset sale took top honours when 22 White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset studs recorded a $7200 average for the 15 rams which sold from 39 offered.
The Mount Ronan White Suffolk and Maternals sale was the next highest average at $2549 when 180 rams were offered and sold, while the third highest was the BreedersBEST sale at $1694.
A further five sales averaged more than $1300 - Te Rakau Texel, Wannamal ($1492); Shirlee Downs/Dongadilling ($1413); Kojonup Triple S ($1382); Yonga Downs ($1361); Lukin Springs White Suffolk, Boyup Brook ($1300).
A further 16 sales averaged $1000-$1300 to take the number of sales averaging more than $1000 to 24, which was down three compared to last year.
This year there were 21 sales to achieve an improvement in average, which ranged from $33 to $1065, this included 16 sales that experienced a rise of $100 or more.
The biggest movers in the sale averages were Mount Ronan ($1065); WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset ($842); Wagin Breeders ($318); Williams Breeders ($229); Cheeryna White Suffolk and Suffolk, Williams ($220) and Riverbend Poll Dorset and Border Leicester, Eneabba ($202).
For a fifth year on the trot the White Suffolk breed took the mantle as the biggest selling breed ahead of the Poll Dorset breed.
This year White Suffolks featured in 33 sales (or 72pc) and made up 51pc of British and Australasian rams offered, 52pc of rams sold and 52pc of the season's gross return.
All up there were 2214 rams offered with 2013 sold under the hammer for a gross of $2,439,400 and an average of $1212.
The average was up $104 on last year when 2366 rams were offered and 2156 sold for an average of $1108, meaning there were 152 less rams offered and 143 less sold.
In addition to the two top White Suffolk prices mentioned earlier, the Bowen family's Mount Ronan stud, York, topped the on-property sales when it sold a ram for $7100.
This price was followed by $6200 achieved by the Ida Vale stud and $5800 achieved by the Shirlee Downs stud, at their annual sales.
There were 10 White Suffolk sales that grossed more than $100,000 this year and the one which recorded the largest gross was the Mount Ronan on-property sale, where 80 rams were offered and sold for a gross of $175,600.
The next biggest were the Kolindale on-property sale at Dudinin grossing $157,600 for 133 rams sold from 140 offered, the Lukin Springs sale with $153,400 for 118 rams sold from 120 offered and the Glenbrook sale, Darkan, $147,850 for 138 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 seven sales which cleared more than 100 rams under the hammer.
Other bigger sales included Golden Hill on-property, Kukerin (119 offered, 119 sold, $141,800 gross; Rhos Gwyn, Mt Barker (118, 117, $119,000), Stockdale on-property, York (118, 117, $137,400) and Cheetara, Narembeen (115, 111, $117,400).
In terms of averages the WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset sale led the way for the breed with an average of $8023 for 11 rams sold from 24 offered.
Other strong sale averages were Mount Ronan ($2195), Shirlee Downs ($1450); Yonga Downs ($1361); Lukin Springs ($1300), while another 19 averaged $1000-$1300, making it a total of 24 to average more than $1000, four more than last year.
White Suffolk studs to record strong results at multi-vendor sales included Fenwick Farm (25 offered, 25 sold, $1168 average) at Wongan Hills; Cascade (30, 30, $1110) at Esperance; Sasimwa (14, 14, $1154) and Acadia (30, 30, $1083), at Quairading; Venturon (6, 6, $1117) at Dinninup), Iveston (59, 60, $1058) at Williams and Kantara (35, 35, $1289) at Wagin.
There were also good clearance rates in the White Suffolk breed, with 12 sales (where more than 10 rams were offered) achieving a 100pc clearance, while the overall clearance rate for the breed was 91pc the same as 2019.
The Poll Dorset breed had to again settle as being the second biggest.
Like the White Suffolks, the Poll Dorsets saw a rise in average but a fall in the number of rams offered and sold compared to 2019.
This year there were 1487 Poll Dorset offered at 28 sales and 1242 sold for a gross of $1,378,630 and an average of $1110.
Compared to last year when 1460 rams sold at auction from 1725 offered to average $1066 and gross $1,556,600, there were 238 less Poll Dorsets offered, 218 less sold and the gross was down $177,970, but on the positive side the average rose $44.
The clearance rate of 84pc was down from last year's 85pc with five sales posting total clearances.
Poll Dorsets accounted for 34pc of the terminal sires offered, 32pc of rams sold and 29pc of the gross, down from 37pc, 35pc and 34pc respectively last year.
As previously mentioned the Squiers family's Shirlee Downs stud sold the breed's top-priced ram at their on-property ram sale and the Heggaton family, Sherwood stud sold the breed's second top price at their on-property sale.
Other prices of note were $8800 for a Shirlee Downs sire at its on-property sale, $6400 for a Sherwood sire at the BreedersBEST sale and $5100 achieved by the Stockdale stud at its on-property sale.
The highest grossing sale for the Poll Dorset breed was the Shirlee Downs/Dongadilling sale where 169 stud and commercial rams sold from 201 offered, for a gross of $237,600.
This was followed by the BreedersBEST sale with a $212,000 gross for the 118 Sherwood prefix rams sold from 119 offered; Kojonup Triple S sale with a $180,300 gross for the 133 rams offered and sold and the Chapman Valley Breeders' Sale where 105 rams were cleared from 116 offered for a gross of $109,300.
These four sales also had the biggest offerings for the breed.
The WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Suffolk sale led the average stakes with two rams selling from nine offered at an average of $3250.
The next best were Sherwood at BreedersBEST ($1797); Shirlee Downs/Dongadilling ($1406); Kojonup Triple S ($1356); Stockdale ($1348); Chapman Valley ($1041) and Brimfield ($1021).
Studs worthy of a mention which achieved top results at multi-vendor sales were Orrvale (85 offered, 85 sold, $1482 average) and Glencraobh/Amberley (48, 48, $1131) at the Kojonup Triple S sale; Tipperary (80 offered, 69 sold, $1233) at Chapman Valley and Denroy (15, 15, $1027) at Darkan.
The five sales to achieve a 100pc clearance in the breed were Cheetara, Narembeen (19 head); Wheatbelt Triple C (Cunderdin College) (14); Darkan Breeders (39); Kojonup Triple S (133) and Riverbend (50).
The Suffolk breed was again the third biggest in terms of the number of rams offered and sold but fourth most significant if you look at the breed's gross figure for the season.
This year Suffolk breeders offered 254 (down 42 rams) and sold 236 (down 11 rams) at 10 sales for a clearance rate of 93pc, which was up 10pc on 2019.
The breed grossed $244,775 and averaged $1037, which was up $114 on last year.
The top price for the breed was $6750 and it was achieved by the Kalinda stud, Boyanup, when it sold a ram at this value to the Rocky Ridge stud, Narrogin, at the WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset sale.
The next best price for the breed was $6500 achieved by the Jusak stud, Newdegate, also at the WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset sale.
The biggest numbers of Suffolk rams was seen at the Cheeryna on-property sale at Williams where a total clearance of 88 rams resulted.
Other bigger offerings were at the Blackbutt sale, Bencubbin, (36 offered, 34 sold), Cheetara (27, 22) and Fenwick Farm, Calingiri at the Wongan Hills (25, 25).
Cheeryna was clearly the highest grossing sale at $112,300, followed by Wongan Hills at $27,200 and Blackbutt at $21,750.
The WA Elite White Suffolk, Suffolk and Poll Dorset sale claimed top average honours (where more than one ram sold) with a figure of $6625 for two rams sold from six offered, outside that the Cheeryna sale was next best at $1276, followed by Fenwick Farm at Wongan Hills at $1088 and Kirrie stud, Williams, at Williams Breeders at $1080.
The third highest grossing breed, pipping the Suffolk breed, for the title was the Maternal Composite breed, with all the rams sold at the Mount Ronan on-property sale.
In addition to this the breed also achieved the highest breed average for the British and Australasian breeds and recorded the largest improvement in average compared to 2019.
There were 100 Maternal Composite rams offered and sold this year, for an average of $2833 and a gross of $283,300.
These figures meant there were 21 more Maternal Composite rams offered and sold, the gross was up $159,200 and the average lifted a large $1262 on last year.
The top price in the breed was $9200, which ranked as the fifth highest price overall for the season.
The fourth biggest breed in terms of numbers offered and sold was the Prolific breed and all these rams were offered at the BreedersBEST on-property sale at Kojonup.
In the sale 108 rams were offered and sold under the hammer to a top of $2600 on seven occasions, a gross of $195,500 and an average of $1810, which was the second highest average across all the British and Australasian breeds sold.
Compared to last year there were 14 more Prolific rams offered, 15 more sold, while the gross lifted $27,700 and the average was up $6.
The Texel breed recorded the next best average behind the Maternal Composites and Prolifics when it achieved an average of $1514 for 36 rams offered and sold.
The breed also recorded the second largest rise in average with the breed's average rising $292.
Last year there were 36 Texel sires sold from 44 offered at an average of $1222.
The Border Leicester and South Suffolk breeds rounded out the other breeds to offer more than 30 head.
This year 62 Border Leicesters sold from 75 offered for a gross of $65,100 and an average of $1050, up $281 (third biggest rise).
At these figures it meant the breed sold double the number of rams sold in 2019 and the gross more than doubled.
In terms of the South Suffolk breed this year, 30 South Suffolks sold from 46 offered to a top of $2200 and an average of $1010, which was down $197 on 2019.