IT was a record-breaking day at Kojonup last week when the Heggaton family hosted its annual BreedersBEST Genetics on-property ram sale on September 29.
Producers chasing performance bred terminal genetics and proven maternal genetics were spoilt for choice when they walked into the shed and they bid accordingly, helping the sale gross $855,300, the largest ever sale result for a meat breeds ram sale in WA.
The Heggaton family served up a 353 strong line-up of Poll Dorset, White Suffolk, Kojak and Prolific sires and buyers came from far and wide to get their hands on the genetics.
It was the first time the stud had sold its maternal rams with Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) and the decision to put them on Sheep Genetics Australia was to allow them to be compared to other maternal sheep breeds.
The impressive line-up of rams showed the work and investment stud principals Craig and Liz Heggaton have put into their breeding and all four breeds drew spirited competition which resulted in a perfect clearance under the hammer.
By the end of the marathon selling effort of just under four hours from Elders auctioneer Preston Clarke, the 75 registered buyers at the sale, from both the local area as well as far away as Esperance in the south east, Tammin in the Wheatbelt and Dandaragan in the north and also the Eastern States, plus another 48 registered bidders on AuctionsPlus from all Australian States, had cleared all 353 rams offered under the hammer for a $6800 top paid for a Kojak ram and an average of $2423, which was up $609 on last year.
In comparison, in last year's sale the Heggatons offered 343 rams and sold 342 under the hammer for an average of $1814 and a gross of $620,300.
Meaning not only did the average rise, so did the number of rams sold and the gross which were up 11 head and $235,000 respectively.
Mr Clarke said it was an outstanding result for the Heggaton family and their team on the back of all the investment and work they have put into their breeding program.
"To achieve a 100pc clearance over more than 350 rams is a testament to the Heggaton family and their BreederBEST Genetics enterprise," Mr Clarke said.
"The rams presented very well across all four breeds and with 75 registrations at the sale and many more on AuctionsPlus it was a good indication it was going to be a successful sale.
"Right through the sale buyers were very keen to bid up on their selections and in the selling box we were almost overwhelmed with bids, particularly when it came to the maternal breeds.
"The maternal breeds, Kojak and Prolifics, sold to extreme competition and not many of these rams started at less than $2000 showing easy-care and high fertility traits a high on the list of priorities of producers given the current position of the meat market.
"The Poll Dorsets met with strong competition from many return buyers while the White Suffolks sold to good demand but were not as strong as the Poll Dorsets probably because there are big numbers available at sales.
"From today's result it is quite obvious that with where the meat markets are currently sitting producers are putting a lot of focus on the meat side of their enterprises.
"A sale of this size doesn't just happen without a lot of work from a lot of people.
"You have to acknowledge the work that has gone into this sale starting with the breeding program and all the measurements taken and that leads to the cataloguing of all the rams.
"Then on sale day it is a huge effort by many to draft and pen the rams pre and post sale."
First to go under the hammer was the line-up of 111 Sherwood Poll Dorsets and there was very strong competition on these from a long list of return buyers.
By the end of the run all 111 rams had sold under the hammer to 19 different buyers to a top of $3100 and for an average of $2109, which was up $312 on last year's result.
Last year in the sale the Heggatons sold 118 from 119 Poll Dorsets to a top of $10,600 and an average of $1797.
Achieving the $3100 top price in the run was a long-bodied, well-muscled sire in pen 15 when it was knocked down to second year buyers Don and Morgan Alexander, Bradscott Pty Ltd, Narrogin.
Morgan Alexander said they were impressed by the ram's nice long body and good set of figures across the board.
The ram, which is by Sherwood 190139, has Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) of 0.39 for birthweight (BWT), 11.6 for weaning weight (WWT), 17.67 for post weaning weight (PWWT), 2.93 for post weaning eye muscle depth (PEMD), -0.74 for post weaning fat (PFAT) and a terminal carcase production (TCP) index of 154.51.
Along with purchasing the top-priced Poll Dorset ram the Alexanders also purchased the first Poll Dorset sire offered at $2800.
The ram by Bundara Downs 170180, has ASBVs of 0.62 BWT, 12.11 WWT, 18.48 PWWT, 3.15 PEMD, -0.87 PFAT and a TCP index of 157.38
The Alexanders will use the rams in their nucleus flock of 100 Poll Dorset ewes to breed rams for their own use.
Don Alexander said they had been using Poll Dorset rams for the past 20 years.
"Their lambs are fast maturing and they are as good as any terminal sire breed," Mr Alexander said.
The Alexanders have already started selling lambs from this year's drop of lambs.
They sold their first draft of 400 lambs to WAMMCO two weeks ago and they averaged 23.5 kilograms dressed and returned an average of $195 a head.
This season they are looking to join 3500 Merino ewes to Poll Dorset rams for a May/June lambing.
The second top price in the Poll Dorset run was $3000 paid by KA Roberts, Rainbow Park stud, Napier.
The Bundara Downs 170180 son has ASBVs of 0.58 BWT, 12.01 WWT, 18.42 PWWT, 3.26 PEMD, -0.81 PFAT and a TCP index of 157.54.
There were three major buyers in the run which all went home with 12 rams each.
Paying the highest average of these buyers was long- term client Bill O'Keeffe, O'Keeffe Farming, Gnowangerup, who averaged $2575 across his team of 12 which topped at $2900 for a ram with a TCP index of 161.02.
Mr O'Keeffe said the bloodline had proven it's worth on his property for many years.
"The Sherwood rams produce good long lambs with good growth rates," Mr O'Keeffe said
The enterprise this year is looking to join 1800 to 2000 first-cross Prolific-Merino ewes and 3000 Merino ewes to Poll Dorset rams for three different lambings (February, July and September).
Mr O'Keeffe said their aim was to sell their lambs when the market was at its best.
"We have already sold 500 head of February drop lambs in August to WAMMCO," he said.
"They averaged 25kg dressed and $208 a head including skins.
"Normally all our February drop lambs are sold by now but because of the feed around we haven't got rid of them all, while we tend to sell the July and September-drop lambs from January through to April off the stubbles and out of our feedlot."
Fellow long-time buyer the Bungey family, Highdenup Farms, Borden, also weren't afraid to bid strongly when securing a team of 12 rams.
They averaged $2325 for their selections which topped at $2700.
Garry Bungey said they were chasing rams with low birthweights.
"We like buying here because of the consistency in the rams on offer," Mr Bungey said.
"They also have good growth and muscling."
This year the Bungey family aims to join 2000 Merino ewes to Poll Dorset rams for a June lambing.
Rounding out the buyers to take home a dozen Poll Dorsets were fellow repeat buyers Glenn, Susan and David Mead, GR & SL Mead, Chowerup, who averaged $1875 across their team that topped at $2200.
The Meads, who like the Sherwood rams because they produce well-muscled, early maturing lambs, will this year join 3000 Merino ewes to Poll Dorset and White Suffolk rams.
They have already started selling this year's lambs which were dropped in May/June.
The Meads sold their first draft of 339 head two weeks ago to WAMMCO and the line averaged 22.3kg dressed.
Other strong supporters in the run averaging more than $2000 for their teams were Glenorchy Estate, Gnowangerup and David Hallett Nominees Pty Ltd, which both purchased teams of nine at averages of $2189 and $2156 respectively, while I & D Fox, Dandaragan, purchased eight at an average of $2313 and MG Egerton-Warburton & Co, Kojonup, averaged $2300 across six rams.
After the run of Poll Dorset rams the sale then moved on to an offering of 58 Sherwood White Suffolk rams which sold to a top of $1800 twice.
When the final White Suffolk rams had been sold the clerking sheets showed all 58 rams had been sold under the hammer to 11 buyers at an average of $1186, which was back $16 on last year.
In comparison, in 2020 the stud offered and sold 50 White Suffolk rams for a $1202 average.
The first ram to hit the $1800 mark was a son of Bundara Downs 122261 that led the White Suffolk team when it was knocked down to Clanimea Farm, Kojonup.
The ram has ASBVs of 0.47 BWT, 13.21 WWT, 20.40 PWWT, 1.71 PEMD, -0.39 PFAT and a TCP index of 152.52.
Along with purchasing this ram, the Kojonup-based enterprise also picked up another six White Suffolk rams to finish with a team of seven at an average of $1386.
After purchasing eight Poll Dorsets at an average of $1863, Winton Park Grazing Company, Tambellup, switched its attention to the White Suffolk rams, where it secured two rams including the other $1800 equal top price ram.
This ram was also a son of Bundara Downs 122261, while on ASBV front it had figures of 0.37 BWT, 11.53 WWT, 18.29 PWWT, 3.19 PEMD, 0.08 PFAT and a TCP index of 156.35.
Other buyers to purchase at the top end in the run were the Meads which purchased three rams to a top of $1600 and an average of $1433, while WR & PC Zadow, Kojonup, averaged $1240 over a team which topped at $1400 and Touchstone Rural, Kojonup, purchased three at a $1400 average.
The volume buyer in the run purchasing 18 rams all at $1000 was Beltrac Enterprises, while United Enterprises WA Pty Ltd, Kojonup, also purchased a reasonable sized team taking home six at an average of $1100.
When the sale moved into the maternal breeds and kicked off with an offering of 86 Kojak rams, it went to another level and Mr Clarke needed to have as many arms as an octopus as bids came in from numerous buyers all at once.
The offering of 86 Kojak rams saw very strong competition from start to finish resulting in them all selling under the hammer to 27 buyers, many of which only purchased of one or two rams, to the sale's $6800 top price and an average of $2637, which was up $323.
Last year in the sale the stud offered and sold 66 Kojaks to a top of $3000 and an average of $2314.
Attracting the breed and sale's $6800 top price tag was the lead ram in the Kojak run.
Mr Clarke took an initial bid of $2000 on the ram which showed good scale and growth in the pen and from there the price quickly rose with a number of interested parties raising their hand to bid on the sire.
But in the end it was a returning buyer of more than 10 years, the Thorn family, G & W Thorn, Kojonup, which prevailed and took the ram home.
Hamish Thorn said he was looking for rams with a good frame and high fertility and this ram ticked those boxes.
"He has good length and height, while he has a bit of extra Finn in his bloodlines, which helps with the fertility," Mr Thorn said.
The ram has ASBVs of 0.09 BWT, 7.91 WWT, 11.58 PWWT, 0.85 PEMD, -0.98 PFAT and a maternal carcase production (MCP) index of 127.52.
Along with purchasing the top-priced ram the Thorns also paid $3400 for a second ram which had a MCP index of 130.81.
Both rams will be used in the family's 300-head nucleus flock of Kojak ewes to breed rams for their own use,
Annually the Thorns join 6000 Kojak ewes to mainly Kojak rams for a June lambing.
The Thorns aim to sell all their wether lambs prior to Christmas with the heaviest going to WAMMCO and the rest to a lotfeeder.
Mr Thorn said the Kojak breed was ideal for their operation which is two-thirds cropping and a third livestock.
"With such a large cropping program we want to keep our sheep enterprise as simple as possible and the Kojak allows us to do that due to their easy-care traits," Mr Thorn said.
"They are also very fertile and have good growth rates.
"We are joining our ewe lambs for a six week joining and are getting 80pc wet while our ram lambs at weaning weighed 40kg at three months old."
The sale's second top price of $6200 was also recorded in the Kojak run when Beau Harvey, Greengables Pastoral, Gnowangerup, purchased a ram at this value.
This ram has ASBVs of 0.18 BWT, 7.91 WWT, 11.19 PWWT, 1.03 PEMD, -1.03 PFAT and a MCP index of 125.19.
Along with this ram the Gnowangerup enterprise purchased another three Kojaks to finish with four on the ute at an average of $4175.
Also bidding strongly and taking the sale's third top price ram at $5000 from the Kojak run was Twin Lakes Holdings, Manjimup, which also purchased a second Kojak ram at $3400.
The $5000 ram has ASBVs of 0.08 BWT, 6.75 WWT, 9.32 PWWT, 1.35 PEMD, -0.88 PFAT and a MCP index of 121.99.
The biggest buyer in the run was returning client the South family, Knack Pty Ltd, who like the breed for its easy-care and high fertility traits.
The Souths purchased 15 Kojaks from the offering to a top of $3100 and an average of $2533.
Jack South said they ran a pure Kojak ewe flock on a block away from the main farm and it is why their easy-care traits were a big attraction.
"This season we are looking to join 1800 Kojak ewes," Mr South said.
This year they achieved a 135pc lambing for ewes joined in their Kojak flock.
Other strong supporters in the run purchasing more than four rams were GS & B Martin, Wickepin, which averaged $2386 across seven rams, while Croptomistic Pty Ltd, Esperance, purchased seven at a $2171 average.
Last year's volume Kojak buyer Gillam Grazing, Co, Cranbrook, this year went home with five rams at a $2320 average and JE Kelly & Co, Kojonup, took home six on the ute at an average of $2017.
There was solid buying support on the AuctionsPlus platform during the run also with 10 rams purchased by four different buyers all based in WA for between $1500 and $3200.
The Prolific rams may have been the last offered but they were certainly the most sought after.
If buyers thought the competition in the Kojaks was red hot it went to another level when Mr Clarke offered up the line of 98 Prolific rams.
In the run Mr Clarke started most of the rams at $2000 and it wasn't long before he broke the $3000 barrier with the selling team regularly overwhelmed by bids.
By the end of the run all 98 rams offered had been sold to 22 buyers to a top of $4000 twice and an average of $3322, which was up $1512.
In last year's sale 108 Prolific rams were offered and sold for a $1810 average.
The first ram to hit $4000 in the offering was a 22.3 micron wool ram and it was purchased by repeat buyer Newbey Brothers Trust, Broomehill.
The ram has ASBVs of 0.24 BWT, 7.61 WWT, 10.84 PWWT, 1.33 PEMD, -0.28 PFAT and a MCP index of 132.4.
The Broomehill enterprise also purchased a second ram in the run with a MCP index of 133.55 for $3500.
The other ram to make $4000 in the run was purchased late in the sale by return buyer of four years Brad Higgins, SM Higgins & Sons, Frankland River.
Mr Higgins said he was looking for rams which were finer in the wool and this ram fitted the bill.
"He has low micron and a nice white wool, which we need for our area," Mr Higgins said.
The ram measures 20.3 micron in the wool and has ASBVs of 0.18 BWT, 6.73 WWT, 9.47 PWWT, 1.65 PEMD, -0.41 PFAT and a MCP index of 130.78.
Along with the $4000 ram Mr Higgins purchased another Prolific sire at $3100 to join his sire battery which will be joined to 600 to 700 Merino ewes this year to breed first-cross Prolific-Merino ewes.
Mr Higgins said they used to breed first-cross Border Leicester-Merino ewes but they were phasing them out in favour of first-cross Prolific ewes.
"We like the Prolific as it is a better woolled sheep compared to the Border Leicester while still having the same high lambing percentages," Mr Higgins said.
Mr Higgins uses Texel and White Suffolk rams over his first-cross ewes.
After being the volume buyer in the Kojak offering, the South family took the same title in the Prolific run when it secured 11 rams to a top of $3900 and an average of $3536.
They paid $3900 for a ram which measured 21.8 micron and had a MCP index of 129.03.
When it comes to the Prolific breed Jack South said they liked it for its high fertility, easy-care and fast growth rates.
This year the family is aiming to join 2000 Merino ewes to Prolific rams to produce a first-cross ewe.
Mr South said they join about 8500 first-cross Prolific ewes to Poll Dorset rams and this year achieved 150pc lambing with them.
Just one ram behind the Souths, securing a team of 10 were Barry and Clayton Hardie, Denabling Grazing Co, Narrogin, who will join 2000 Merino ewes to Prolific rams this year.
The Hardies averaged $3250 across their team of 10 which topped at $3600.
Clayton Hardie said it was the high fertility of the breed they liked the most.
"The first-cross Prolific ewes are great and we achieve with them between 150 to 160pc scanned in lamb," Mr Hardie said.
The Hardie family joins around 2500 first-cross Prolific ewes to White Suffolk rams for a lambing starting June 1.
Their lambs are weaned at the end of September and then are put through a feedlot in November and December before being sold.
Other buyers to purchase sizeable teams were Luzny Agri Holdings, which secured eight to a top of $3600 and an average of $3313, while Bill O'Keeffe, O'Keeffe Farming, who uses the breed for its excellent maternal traits and will join 1500 ewes to Prolific rams this year, went home with seven at a $3386 average.
There were a number of other buyers to purchase smaller teams at the top end and these included JS & EN Bagshaw, Boyup Brook, which averaged $3633 across three rams while G & Y Roberts, Moora, purchased four at a $3550 average and Bewray Pty Ltd, Manjimup, picked up five at a $3520 average.