A quality line-up of Merino and Poll Merino rams suited to Wheatbelt and high rainfall conditions were chased confidently by old and new buyers when they went under the hammer at the Mullan family's Eastville Park and Quailerup West on-property ram sale at Wickepin on Monday.
Right through the line-up, the stud's clients showed their faith in the sheep and wool industry, despite its problems, with strong bidding pushing prices to a sale high $4000 four times.
When the final ram was sold by the Nutrien Livestock auctioneering team led by auctioneer Jarrad Hubbard, the Mullan family had sold 223 rams from 240 under the hammer to 31 different buyers at an average of $1579.
The clearance rate was improved post sale with a handful of the passed-in rams finding new homes.
In comparison, in last year's sale, when market conditions were much better, the Mullans sold 224 from 225 rams offered under the hammer to 40 different buyers at stud record average of $2353.
In the breakdown, the Mullans offered 193 Poll Merinos and sold 180 for an average of $1551 (back $938 on last year), while in the Merino side of the catalogue they cleared 43 rams from 47 offered at an average of $1698 (back $274 on last year).
Nutrien Livestock Breeding representative Mitchell Crosby said it was a very solid sale for the Mullan family and there was good competition from buyers from the first right through to the last pens.
"They bucked the trend for what we will see at most sales this year and put up a larger offering compared to last year and it was appreciated by buyers who bid strongly throughout resulting in the Mullans selling nearly the same number of rams as last year," Mr Crosby said.
"It was an excellent line-up of large framed rams with quality white wools that can go anywhere as indicated by the stud's client list which is not only local but also spans east to Muntadgin and Merredin, north to Calingiri down to Boyup Brook and Tenterden.
"The increased offering gave buyers plenty of choice and they were able to buy with confidence right through the catalogue as the line-up up rams was very even from start to finish.
"The sale was once again supported by long term clients who know how the sheep perform and a handful of new clients operating for the first time.
"The Mullans have invested heavily in their breeding program in terms of buying rams as well as AI and ET programs in recent years and today's result is a credit and reward for the dedication to their stud."
Speaking on behalf of the Mullan family, stud co-principal Grantly Mullan said they were very happy with the final sale result in terms of the clearance rate and prices, considering the current position of the sheep industry.
"The loyalty of our clients and their optimism in the future of the sheep industry shone through today in their bidding and this was really heartening to see," Mr Mullan said.
"We are very thankful and grateful for the support we received today from our loyal client base, who keep supporting us and having faith in our genetics.
"Their support and optimism gives us confidence in terms of where we are and how we move forward with our breeding program.
"We believe there is a bright future in the sheep and wool industry and on the back of today's sale we will continue to invest strongly in our breeding program."
A top run of 30 March shorn rams kicked the sale off in a strong way, averaging $2863 and it was among these pens the four equal top-priced $4000 rams were found.
The first ram to hit the $4000 mark was an upstanding, long-bodied, soft, white woolled Quailerup West Merino sire in lot two.
It was knocked down to Eastville Park and Quailerup West classer and Elders stud stock representative Nathan King, who was bidding on behalf of the return buyers the Dearlove family, AM, MJ & WR Dearlove & Son, Dudinin.
Mr King said the ram was a large framed sire with a good, white crimpy wool which the Dearloves like.
"He is a real typical Quailerup West Merino ram," Mr King said.
The 112 kilogram ram, which carried East Mundalla Jonty bloodlines, had current wool figures of 18.1 micron, 3.3 SD and 99.8 per cent comfort factor (CF) along with June scan of 26.5mm for eye muscle depth (EMD).
Also during the sale Mr King purchased another Quailerup West Merino ram for the Dearloves at $1700.
The next ram to hit the $4000 mark was a long-bodied, long-stapled, free-growing woolled Eastville Park Poll Merino sire in lot nine when it was purchased by Rockdale Farming, Rockdale Valley stud, Muntadgin, which in total purchased 11 rams at an average of $2973.
Buyer Brendan Maher said the 115kg sire was a big upstanding ram with plenty of stylish, white wool from head to toe.
"We will look at using him in our stud flock this season," Mr Maher said.
The upstanding sire has wool figures of 19.3 micron, 3.1 SD and 99.9pc CF to go with an EMD scan of 29mm.
Also heading to Rockdale Farming to be used in their stud flock was an Eastville Park Merino ram in lot three for $3200.
The 122kg ram is by Imperial 170521 and has wool figures of 20.8 micron, 3.1 SD, 99.3pc CF and an EMD of 31.3mm.
Mr Maher said he believed this was the best Merino ram on offer by the Eastville Park stud this year.
"He has a really good body size and a soft, white, well-crimped wool," Mr Maher said.
"We have had his bloodline before and it has worked well, so we are excited to see how this ram will fit in.
"We will use him over ewes we bought from the Cardiff stud dispersal sale."
Along with buying these two sires the Muntadgin-based enterprise picked up another three Eastville Park Polls including one at $3400 which measured 19.9 microns and weighed 124kg and two Eastville Park Merinos including one at $3400 which was another Imperial 170521 son that measured 20 microns as well as three Quailerup West Merinos and a Quailerup West Poll for their commercial flock.
This year Mr Maher said they would join 1000 stud ewes alongside 4000 commercial ewes to Merino sires plus 2000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams for an April lambing.
"We aren't changing and moving away from sheep anytime soon, not only do we like running them, we can't make the numbers work in our cropping program without running sheep," he said.
This year the business has already sold 1800 White Suffolk cross lambs and 200 Merino wether lambs as suckers straight to the abattoirs at an average of 21kg dressed.
The third ram to hit $4000 was an Eastville Park Poll in lot 11 and having the last bid on it was long-term client Jay Robertson, CJ & EJ Robertson & Son, Kulin.
Mr Robertson's purchase was a deep-bodied, heavy cutting, 125kg, son of Imperial 170521.
It had wool figures of 19.6 micron, 3.8 SD, 99.6pc CF to go with an EMD of 30.2mm.
This wasn't the only ram headed to the Robertson's Kulin paddocks, during the sale Mr Robertson purchased another 14 Eastville Park rams (12 Polls and two Merinos) plus five Quailerup West sires (four Polls and one Merino) to finish with 20 rams at an average of $1505 to make him the second biggest volume buyer.
Mr Robertson said he continued to return and buy from the Mullans as he really likes the size and wool quality of their genetics.
"They get better and better every year," Mr Robertson said.
This year the Robertsons will join 2000 ewes to Merino rams and 900 Merinos to Prime SAMM rams for a lambing starting late May and 1800 Prime SAMM-Merino ewes to Dorpers, which lamb down in April/May.
"We aren't looking at cutting back our numbers with how the market is currently," Mr Robertson said.
"We have faith in the industry and are going to stick with it and ride out the wave."
Rounding out the rams to hit the sale's $4000 top price was a stylish, long-stapled Eastville Park Poll Merino sire in lot 27 when it was knocked down to Brad Smoker, Gorge Rock Farming, Kulin, who has been buying from the Mullans for eight years.
Mr Smoker said the ram he paid $4000 for, had a really good constitution, clean lines and plenty of wool packed on a good sized body.
The 102kg ram is by Eastville Park Bomber and has wool figures of 19.9 micron, 3.9 SD, 99.8pc CF and a EMD of 29.9mm.
Along with buying this ram, Mr Smoker purchased another 10 Eastville Park Polls to finish with a team of 11 at an average of $2281.
Mr Smoker, who will join 2500 ewes to Poll Merino sires this year, said he likes buying from the stud as the Mullans are doing a good job in progressing their genetics and offer what their clients want.
"I also like the consistency of quality in the line-ups to choose from every year," Mr Smoker said.
In terms of numbers, the most influential buyer on the sale was return buyer Tom Wittwer, NH Wittwer & Co, Cuballing.
Mr Wittwer, who has been buying from the Mullans for 15 years, was the clear volume buyer securing 34 rams from both stud offerings made up of 26 Polls and eight Merinos to a high of $1900 and an average of $1359.
Included in his team was a very special ram that sold for $1700 and whose proceeds were being donated to the Shearing For Liz Pink Day fundraiser charity for Breast Cancer Research WA.
Mr Wittwer said he was chasing big, plain-bodied rams that carried good wools with nourishment.
"I had no preference for either bloodline or whether the ram was polled or horned," Mr Wittwer said.
"This year we are looking to join 7500 ewes all up with 70pc of these going to Merinos.
"We aren't looking at changing our numbers with what is going on in the industry, as we are set up for sheep and they work well with our cropping program.
"Our best crops are grown after clover pastures."
There were four other buyers outside those already mentioned who purchased double figure teams and the biggest of these was return buyer WH Davis & Son, Kulin, who picked up 16 Poll sires (nine Quailerup Wests and seven Eastville Parks) under the hammer to a top of $3200 and an average of $1019, while the Hawksley family, RM Hawksley, Cuballing, purchased 13 Polls (10 Eastville Parks and three Quailerup Wests) under the hammer to a top of $1800 and an average of $1184.
Also in this category was repeat buyer AR Duckworth & Co, Kulin, which secured 12 Polls (six from each stud) at an average of $975 and to a high of $1300 and TF & RM Quill, Duranillin, averaged $1480 over a team of 10 Quailerup West Polls that topped at $1800 three times.
Other strong supporters averaging more than $2000 for teams of two or more head were King Farming, Calingiri, four Quailerup West rams (three Polls and one Merino) at a $2450 average; Brockham Stud, Lake Grace, one Eastville Park Poll and five Quailerup West Polls at a $2183 average; T & L O'Driscoll & Sons, Grass Valley, six Eastville Park Polls at a $2100 average; SS & P Martin, Wickepin, four Eastville Park Polls and two Quailerup West Polls at a $2083 average and Warranine Park, Brookton, four Quailerup West Merinos and one Eastville Park Merino at a $2000 average.
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