A QUALITY line-up of Merino, Poll Merino, Dohne and White Suffolk rams and another good season in the area provided plenty of confidence for buyers at last week's Esperance Breeders' Ram Sale.
Despite the current downturn in the sheep and wool industry, buyers turned up in droves from as far afield as Boyup Brook for the sale and showed they still had plenty of confidence in the industry, bidding strongly on the rams they wanted, ensuring they kept their breeding programs moving forward.
In the sale, which can easily claim to to be the biggest multi-breed, multi-vendor sale in WA, seven studs offered a combined yarding of 367 Merino, Poll Merino, Dohne and White Suffolk rams and they were well received by the 52 registered buyers, who were solid in their bidding from start to finish.
This solid competition right through the catalogue resulted in a better result than many expected.
In the Merino section prices regularly went beyond the $3000 mark and topped at $5100, while in the prime lamb side, prices hit a high of $2500 for a White Suffolk sire.
When the final numbers were crunched, a mix of local buyers and a number from further afield had cleared 93 per cent or 341 rams under the hammer of Nutrien Livestock auctioneer Neil Brindley and Elders auctioneer Roger Fris, after close to four hours of selling, for a total gross of $473,200 and an average of $1388.
In comparison to last year's sale, there were 12 more rams sold, while the average was back $150 on last year's figure of $1538.
Mr Brindley, who sold over 95pc of the catalogue, said the sale result exceeded expectations.
"To have a near-total clearance in the sale shows the dedication of those in the industry and their faith in its future," Mr Brindley said.
"Despite the current market position, the sale showed there is still plenty of positivity in the industry and those in it are still dedicated to their sheep programs and see its current position as just a blip that will correct itself in time.
"The line-up of rams was once again very good and were a credit to the breeders, so it was good to see they got rewarded for their dedication to their breeding programs."
Merino and Poll Merino
The Merino and Poll Merinos were the first offered and made up the majority of the rams in the shed.
In this side of the catalogue, four studs offered 259 rams back by Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) and by the end of the run on the back of some spirited bidding, 241 had sold under the hammer to a top of $5100 and average of $1505.
The clearance for the run was improved further post sale with another 10 rams finding homes.
In comparison, last year 221 rams sold from 232 offered at an average of $1819, which meant the average was back $314 this year compared to last, but the number of rams sold was up 20 head in a positive outcome for vendors.
The Welke family's Westwood stud, Cascade, had the second biggest offering in the run and it was in their offering where the day's $5100 top-priced ram was found.
All up the stud offered 83 Poll Merino rams and sold 78 under the hammer to 17 different buyers at an average of $1867, which was back from last year's average of $2633 when it offered and sold 60 rams.
Achieving the day's $5100 top price was a long-bodied ram carrying a bold crimping, well-nourished, free-growing wool in lot 69, selling to return buyer BJ Whiting, Stonewolf Pastoral, Gibson.
Mr Whiting said the ram had the genotype he liked and was a good all round ram.
"He has good balance, safe for our high rainfall and has a good set of ASBVs including a massive fibre diameter figure," Mr Whiting said.
The double polled, twin born and reared ram, which is by Gunallo 200865 and out of a ewe lamb, had a bodyweight of 86 kilograms to go with raw wool figures of 15.7 micron, 2.6 SD and 16.9 CV.
On the ASBVs front, it has figures of 30.05 for yearling clean fleece weight (YCFW) and -2.41 yearling fibre diameter (YFD), which are both in the top 10pc on MerinoSelect, as well as a yearling weight (YWT) of 9.46 which ranks in the top 20pc.
Its other ASBVs include 0.19 yearling fat (YFAT) and 0.19 yearling eye muscle depth (YEMD), as well as indexes of 174.12 for MP+ and 170.40 for DP+.
Mr Whiting said they would use the ram in their nucleus flock of about 500 ewes to breed rams for their own use.
Along with their nucleus flock, the Whitings are looking to mate another 1600 ewes to Poll Merino sires this year for a March/April lambing.
Along with buying the top-priced ram, the Whitings also purchased another two rams from the Westwood offering at $3300 and $1600.
The Westwood stud also sold the day's second top-priced ram at $5000 when first-time buyers Roger and Joanne Nankivell, RA & JM Nankivell, Condingup, bid to this value for a double polled, 94kg, 17.5 micron ram, which has a DP+ index of 180.35.
This ram ranks in the top 20pc on MerinoSelect for YCFW, post weaning weight (PWWT) and the DP+ index.
Mr Nankivell said the ram had a good length of body and was nice and square.
"He also has a good free-growing, long-stapled wool that I like," Mr Nankivell said.
"His figures are also what we look for, he has a good YCFW and YWT, as well as good index values for the MP+ and DP+."
Mr Nankivell said the plan would be to use the ram in their nucleus flock which is made up of out 200 ewes to breed rams for their own use.
In addition to their nucleus flock the Nankivells join another 1600 ewes to Poll Merino rams for a May/June lambing.
Mr Nankivell said he was definitely planning to stick with his Merinos into the future despite the problems currently facing the industry.
"The sheep and cropping mix works really well for us and we won't be changing any time soon," Mr Nankivell said.
There were three return buyers to buy smaller teams at top end values.
They included the Walter family, TKO Farming, Cascade, averaging $2450 across a team of six, while Laurina Farms, Esperance, purchased three at a $3067 average and D Piercy & Co, Salmon Gums, secured three for a $2233 average.
The volume buyer in the Westwood run was Lortleaze Farms, Esperance, purchasing 20 rams to a top of $2000 four times and an average of $1510.
The next biggest buyer was fifth-year buyer Epasco Farms, Condingup, securing 14 rams at an average of $1621 and to a top of $2600.
Epasco Farms' farm manager Nick Ruddenklau said he was chasing dual-purpose rams for the business.
"We wanted rams with positive fats and eye muscle depths and also those with negative fibre diameter figures as we are trying to reduce our micron," Mr Ruddenklau said.
This year Epasco Farms is looking to join 13,000 ewes to Merino rams for a lambing starting in mid-May.
Other strong supporters of the offering buying seven rams each were IB Wyatt & Co, Pingaring, which averaged $1886 and Neville Welke & Son, Esperance, which averaged $1771.
The Gibson family's Nairnup stud, Munglinup, selling through Elders, was the first stud to offer rams in the Merino run.
They offered 12 rams (six Merinos and six Poll Merinos) and sold nine under the hammer to a top of $4600, which was the highest price paid for a Merino.
The stud also achieved the sale's best average of $2178, which was up $1153 on the stud's 2022 result.
Last year in the sale the stud sold eight rams from 12 offered at an average of $1025.
Topping the Nairnup run at $4600 was the stud's final Merino ram offered when it was knocked down to Cassidy Whiting, BT Whiting & Co, Munglinup.
The well-nourished, long-stapled, bold crimping ram weighed in at 89.5kg and had wool figures of 21.4 micron and 3.3 SD to go with ASBVs of 1.77 weaning weight (WWT), 2.04 post weaning weight (PWWT), 2.38 YWT, -0.17 YFAT, 4.04 yearling greasy fleece weight (YGFW) and 5.65 YCFW.
Ms Whiting said she picked the ram out for the evenness in its wool and good staple length.
"He also has good body conformation," Ms Whiting said.
"He is just a good safe ram that will fit in with our breeding program well."
The Whitings also picked up three other Merino rams, including the second last offered at $3600 and a Poll Merino ram at $3100.
The $3600 Merino ram weighed 88kg and had ASBVs of 2.15 WWT, 2.89 PWWT, 3.74 YWT, -0.28 YFAT, 5.52 YGFW and 7.09 YCFW, while the $3100 Poll Merino weighed 94kg and had ASBVs of 5.85 WWT, 8.03 PWWT, 9.63 YWT, -0.11 YFAT, 22.3 YGFW and 22.17 YCFW as well as index values of 162.85 for MP+ and 176.61 for DP+.
Ms Whiting said the Poll ram was a nice solid, safe ram which would complement their flock.
The Whitings this year are looking to join 2000 ewes to Merino rams and another 1000 Merino ewes to prime lamb sires.
Also in the Nairnup run another Poll Merino with indexes of 159.78 for MP+ and 172.48 for DP+ sold for $3100 to RM & TF Edwards, Ravensthorpe, while SJ & DE Baxter, Esperance, purchased three Polls to a top of $1200 and an average of $1000.
Like in past years, the Vandenberghe family's Wattle Dale stud, Scaddan, led the charge in the Merino section, offering the largest team.
The Vandenberges offered 124 Merino and Poll Merino sires through Nutrien Livestock and sold 115 to 17 different buyers under the hammer to a high of $3800 and at an average of $1307, which was back $241 on last year.
Last year they offered and sold 120 rams to a top of $5000 and an average of $1548.
Topping the Wattle Dale team at $3800 was a well-covered, soft, white woolled Poll Merino ram penned about one third of the way through the Wattle Dale team in lot 110 when it was knocked down to long-term buyers Dave and Lyn Mathwin, Barrule Grazing Co, Kojonup.
The 78.5kg ram, which carries Centre Plus bloodlines, had wool figures of 17.9 micron, and 3.6 SD and ASBVs of -2.05 YFD, 6.23 YWT, -0.05 YFAT, 0.11 YEMD, 35.78 YCFW and indexes of 192.46 MP+ and 188.27 DP+.
The figures rank it in the top 5pc for YCFW and MP+, top 10pc for DP+ and top 20pc for YFD on MerinoSelect.
Ms Mathwin said she picked the ram out as it was a well put together ram with good wool and the right amount of skin.
"It also had a good CFWT figure which was important as we are trying to increase our wool," Ms Mathwin said.
"He will also be a new bloodline for us as we have never had the Centre Plus genetics before."
Along with securing the top-priced rams, the Mathwins also purchased another four rams from the Wattle Dale run to average $2440 across their team of five.
Also in the team heading to Kojonup at $3500 was a 75.5kg, 18.1 micron polled ram which ranks in the top 5pc for YCFW and top 10pc for YFD as well as the MP+ and MP indexes.
This year the Mathwins will join 1000 to 1400 ewes for a June/July lambing, with the final number depending on whether they will have to carry dry stock.
Ms Mathwin said they have been long-time supporters of the Wattle Dale stud, having purchased from it even when it was located in Kojonup as its breeding objectives matched up with theirs.
"They are good productive sheep with nice, bright white wools," she said.
"Their wool quality is getting better and better.
"They suit and do well in our environment and our wool always sells well."
Just $200 shy of the stud's $3800 top price was a deep and long-bodied double polled ram when it sold at $3600 to repeat buyer Ash Reichstein, Laurina Farms, Esperance.
The 92kg sired ranks in the top 5pc for YCFW, YWT and the MP index as well as top 10pc for the MP+ index.
This wasn't the only ram Mr Reichstein purchased from the Wattle Dale run, he also secured another two Poll Merino sires at $2400 and $1800.
There were a couple of other buyers not afraid to bid strongly on their selections in the Wattle Dale offering and they included Bott Livestock, Esperance, which secured two rams at $3300 and $3000, while Worldbase Securities, Esperance, took home a single sire at $3500.
Also buying at the top end were L & C O'Shannessy, Hyden, averaging $2140 across a team of five that topped at $3000 twice and JC & TB Sullivan, Gibson, purchased a team of five to a top of $3100 and an average of $1820.
After being the volume buyer of Wattle Dale rams for the past two years, JA Russell Australia Pty Ltd, Esperance, was back again chasing numbers and again collected the volume buyer title.
This year the business purchased 29 rams under the hammer at an average of $866 and to a top of $1300 (four times).
JA Russell farm manager Mitch Greaves said he was chasing rams with good yearling weight, clean fleece weight and fat figures.
"This year we will look at joining 4000 Merino ewes to Merinos and another 2000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams," Mr Greaves said.
"The operation made the move to Merinos, having previously run a Prime SAMM flock three years ago as it wanted to improve the wool quality and wool cut in the enterprise."
There were two other buyers to purchase double figure teams from Wattle Dale.
Return buyer the Stead family, Hargate Park, Esperance, purchased 16 sires to a high of $1700 and an average of $1238, while long-time buyer Trevor Schutz, Banksia Park, Esperance, averaged $1291 over a team of 11 that topped at $2400.
Other strong supporters buying numbers were buyer of 10 years the White family, WR White & Son, Dinninup, who averaged $1175 for eight and K & M Norman, Ravensthorpe, that secured six at an average of $1017.
The Pengilly family, Penrose stud, Cascade, rounded out the Merino section of the catalogue with an offering of 40 Poll Merino sires through Nutrien Livestock and they sold 39 under the hammer to a top of $4300 and an average of $1210, which was back $308.
Last year the stud cleared 33 rams from a team of 40 at an average of $1518.
Taking top-price honours at $4300 in the Penrose team was the stud's third ram offered, when it was knocked down to Roger and Joanne Nankivell, who last purchased from the stud about 10 years ago.
The 99.5kg double polled ram measured 16.1 micron and 2.2 SD in the wool while it has ASBVs of -1.1 YFD, 9.95 YWT, -0.5 YFAT, -0.25 YEMD, 30.67 YCFW (top 10pc).
It has index values of 170.2 for MP+ and 169 for DP+.
The twin born ram carries Benefield and Gunallo bloodlines on its sire's side.
Mr Nankivell said the ram was a good free-growing type with length and style in its wool.
"He has a good structured framed and the good figures we want for yearling weight and clean fleece weight," Mr Nankivell said.
"He will be a new bloodline for our flock but I think he will fit in well with our program."
Return buyer Peter Piercey, D Piercy & Co, Salmon Gums, again operated at the top end of the Penrose catalogue, purchasing the stud's $2600 second top-priced and $1900 third top-priced rams.
Mr Piercy bid to $2600 for a double polled 95kg ram which had indexes of 157.8 for MP+ and 156.9 for DP+, while his $1900 purchase was also a double polled sire with index values of 157.2 for MP+ and 158.7 for DP+
Clients of nine years the Ietto family, Allannaluke Farms, Grass Patch, was again a strong supporter of the Penrose offering, purchasing eight rams to a high of $1600 (four times) and an average of $1363.
The Iettos are looking to join 2000 ewes to Merino rams.
Allison Ietto said they liked purchasing from Penrose because they breed good framed sheep with quality wools.
The biggest buyer in the Penrose team was Stevens Farming Pty Ltd, Whiteheads Creek, Victoria, which purchased through Nutrien Ag Solutions wool representative Andrew Beaton.
The Victorian enterprise finished the day with a team of 10 Penrose rams at an average of $980 and to a high of $1500 twice.
Other strong supporters of the run were Bruechle Farming, Esperance, which averaged $700 over a team of seven, while LJ & D Chapman & Co, Esperance, purchased five at an average of $1200.
The Lowe family's C-View stud, Esperance, again presented a team of Dohne rams through Elders.
This year the Lowes offered 12 rams and sold four under the hammer to a top of $1000 and an average of $725.
The stud's $1000 top-priced ram was purchased by return buyer the McCallum family, I & C McCallum, Esperance.
The ram had ASBVs of 0.12 fibre diameter, 4.20 clean fleece weight, 9.49 post weaning weight (PWWT), 1.95 eye muscle depth, 0.16 fat and a Dohne Plus index of 176.21.
The McCallums went on to purchase a further two rams from the C-View team at $700 and $600.
The other ram to sell in the C-View line-up sold at $600 to Lawrence Staunton, L & A Staunton, Esperance.
The White Suffolk rams rounded out the sale and this year two studs offered 96 rams between them through Nutrien Livestock and when the final ram was knocked down, all 96 offered had found new homes, selling for an average of $1121, which was up $101 on last year when 92 rams sold from 97 offered at an average of $1020.
Leading the way in the White Suffolk run and selling the day's $2500 top-priced White Suffolk ram was the MacDonald family's Macsfield stud, Condingup/Beaumont.
Third-year buyer the Fowler family, Chilwell, Condingup, secured the top-priced ram when going to $2500 for a long-bodied, well-muscled sire.
Chilwell livestock manager Stephen Bingham said the ram was a standout in the team.
"He is a big, long ram with good depth and muscling," Mr Bingham said.
"We like the rams the Macsfield stud breeds.
"They are big, solid rams which breed good sucker lambs."
Along with securing the top-priced ram, Chilwell purchased another five rams from Macsfield including one at $2000 to finish with a team of six at an average of $1617.
This year the Fowler family is aiming to join 8000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams for a lambing that starts in late March.
Mr Bingham said the aim was to turn the lambs off as suckers at about 41-42kg liveweight.
"Our first drafts of lambs for this year will go in the next two weeks," he said.
The second top price in the Macsfield offering was $2100 bid by Tanya Hill, TM Hill, Esperance, who also picked up a second Macsfield sire at $1300.
Also bidding strongly on the Macsfied offering was Nutrien Livestock, Esperance agent Darren Chatley, who purchased four rams for Propasco Nominees at an average of $1250 and to a top of $1400 twice, while I & C McCallum, purchased two at $1600 and $1500 and Epasco Farms, Esperance, Condignup, also purchased two at $1400 and $1200.
All up the Macsfield stud offered and sold 20 White Suffolk sires at an average of $1435, which was up $290 on its 2022 sale result.
The Welke family, Cascade stud, Cascade, increased its offering again this year in the run, offering 76 rams, which was 14 more than last year.
By the end of the stud's offering, all 76 rams were heading to new homes to a top of $1500 and an average of $1038, which was up $3 on last year.
In comparison in 2022, the stud offered and sold 62 rams for a $1035 average.
Picking up Cascade's $1500 top-priced rams was Epasco Farms.
The top-priced ram weighed 99kg and had ASBVs of 0.48 birthweight (BWT), 11.52 WWT, 17.28 PWWT, 1.21 post weaning eye muscle depth (PEMD), -0.74 post weaning fat (PFAT) along with indexes of 145.22 for the TCP index and 139.53 for LEQ index.
However, not only did Epasco Farms buy the top-priced Cascade ram, it was also the volume buyer in the run, purchasing another 22 rams to finish with a team of 23 at an average of $1122.
Epasco Farms' farm manager Nick Ruddenklau said they were aiming to join 3500 ewes to White Suffolk rams this year for an April lambing.
"We used White Suffolk rams for the first time last year and we are looking to turn off our first draft of lambs as suckers from that mating in mid September," Mr Ruddenklau said.
"We are aiming for a 21kg carcase.
"We like the White Suffolk breed and chose it because it has good hybrid vigour, ease of lambing and the lambs grow fast."
There were two other buyers to secure double figure teams from the Cascade offering and in both cases it was Mr Chatley who was bidding for them.
Mr Chatley firstly bought 12 rams at an average of $1125 and to a top of $1400 for new client Propasco Nominees, which will use the rams of over Merino ewes.
The second order saw Mr Chatley purchase 12 rams to a high of $1100 and an average of $917 for longtime client Preston Downs Farming, Esperance, which will use the rams over Dohne and Dohne cross ewes.
In both cases Mr Chatley said he was looking for rams with good growth and muscling.
Other strong supporters of the Cascade run were Neville Welke & Son, Esperance, which purchased six rams at an average of $983, while Sandplain Farming, Esperance, averaged $1029 across a ute load of five and AJ & M Coward, Esperance, purchased five at an average of $940.
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