IT was the $165,000 ram purchase that made headlines back in late September and now that 'White Gold' is settled into its Adelaide Hills home, the Flaxley buyer explains why he thinks the Australian White is the "sheep of the future".
The record price for White Gold was paid for by David and Natalia Ellingsen of Flaxley Australian Whites during Tattykeel's on-property Australian White sale that grossed $5.6 million at Oberon, NSW.
A successful business owner, who runs Metropolitan Plumbing, Electrical and Air Conditioning, Mr Ellingsen was previously running beef cattle as a side venture at his Flaxley farm.
He said the decision to get involved with Australian Whites was driven by a desire to get his foot in the lucrative stud market, while also being involved in the breed's growth during its relative infancy.
"There might be a bubble in terms of prices, but there's so many characteristics that make it the sheep of the future," Mr Ellingsen said.
"I've already been contacted by people all around the world to supply meat, but we're not looking at meat at this stage, we want to keep buying the top rams and ewes each year to be recognised as a premium stud."
Mr Ellingsen said the sheep was an attractive option for graziers, with no shearing or crutching required, the ability to lamb three times over the course of two years and, while there is no premium for commercial producers yet, he believed the meat would fetch a premium through targeted marketing or if a lamb grading system was introduced.
"From a marketing perspective, those are strong qualities," Mr Ellingsen said.
At Flaxley, White Gold has settled in alongside a flock of 22 stud ewes and nine lambs.
In six weeks time, the first lambs sired by White Gold are expected to drop.
Flaxley's 2022 goals include embarking on an artificial insemination program and growing their flock.
Mr Ellingsen said he eventually planned to sell up to 200 Australian Whites a year.
The flock rebuild across the Eastern States in the past two years has been one of the factors in record prices for shedding breeds, and in particular Australian Whites, according to insights from AuctionsPlus.
Demand for breeding ewes has far outweighed supplies, with commercial scanned-in-lamb Australian White ewes making up to $1400 in 2021.
QPL Rural's Craig Pellow has been involved with the breed since it's development by Tattykeel and said he could foresee the sheep's rise in popularity having been a contract muleser in the past.
"There's no shearing, no crutching, very few flies and lice won't live on them because the hair's too open.
"It's extremely hard to source shearers and mixed farmers especially are finding them easier from a management point of view.
"My better clients at 200pc lambing (130-140pc lambings with three lambings over two years) are producing the equivalent of about $850 per ewe, per year."
Mr Pellow said prices may ease once national numbers had increased, but he said that would be a "long, long time away."
"We're going to see ewes making seriously big money for a long period of time," he said.
"I think within ten to 15 years, 30 per cent of the Australian sheep population will be Australian Whites."
Difficulty in getting shearers and wool market fluctuations had resulted in traditional Merino producers "dabbling" in shedding breeds, according to Elders Broken Hill livestock agent Ian Featherstone.
Mr Featherstone said some producers had also diversified into shedding breeds in the past 18 months as a different way of re-stocking.
Recent prices for shedding stock was slowing this movement though, with producers now having to breed up their own numbers rather than buying stock in.
Mr Featherstone said Dorpers were still the main shedding breed run in his region, with some also putting a Dorper ram over Damara ewes.
He said many pastoralists in NSW were also putting fencing up for goats (rangeland goats are a declared pest in SA and can't be managed or feedlotted) because they were readily available and sought after.
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