THE Ledwith family, Kolindale Merino, Poll Merino and White Suffolk studs, hosted Western Australia's biggest on-property ram sale on Monday - and it certainly didn't disappoint.
New and existing buyers were out in force at the sale chasing the quality Kolindale genetics and, despite the current downturn in the sheep market and testing seasonal conditions for some buyers, they still showed confidence in the Kolindale product - pushing prices to a high of $7000 for a Poll Merino sire.
All up, the Ledwiths put forward 495 rams, which showed the traits Kolindale sheep are renowned for and, with solid competition throughout from the 52 registered bidders - who travelled from as far away as Condingup in the south east, Badgingarra in the north and Moorine Rock in the east - the final result was a positive one for the Ledwiths.
In the breakdown, there were 83 Merinos, 217 Poll Merinos and 195 White Suffolks offered.
When the final ram was bowled over after more than four and half hours of selling and the numbers were crunched, 448 rams - or 91 per cent - had sold under the hammer for a combined gross of $711,000, an overall average of $1587 and a top of $7000 for a Poll Merino ram.
In comparison, in last year's sale the Ledwith family sold 586 rams from 599 offered at an average of $1702, meaning this year's average was back $155.
It was another big yarding of Merino and Poll Merino rams lined up by the Kolindale stud and the Elders selling team, led by Nathan King and James Culleton, had the task to find them new homes.
All up, 300 rams were offered and - with good buying support from returning and new clients - the majority of the rams received good competition from multiple buyers to ensure a solid result, especially in terms of prices.
By the end of the offering, Mr King and Mr Culleton had cleared 256 - or 85pc - under the hammer to 37 different buyers for a gross of $521,800, a top of $7000 and an average of $2038.
This was up from last year's average of $1971, when 335 from 348 rams sold.
The clearance for the section was improved further post-sale, with a number of the passed in rams also finding new homes.
In the breakdown, the Ledwith family offered 83 Merinos and sold 65 under the hammer at an average of $1939 (back $37 on last year), while there were 191 from 217 Poll Merinos sold for an average of $2072 (up $102 on last year).
The sale started with a run of 43 March shorn, shed-prepared rams and it got off to a very good beginning when these averaged $3447.
Leading the way in these pens was an upstanding Poll Merino ram in pen five.
When Mr King stood over the big, deep, long-bodied Poll Merino ram, buyers quickly gathered and it was not long before he had an opening bid of $3000.
Eventually, after some quick back and forth between interested bidders and the auctioneering team, it was Noel Brayshaw, E Brayshaw & Son, Narembeen, who was written into the clerking sheets as the buyer at the sale's $7000 top price.
Mr Brayshaw, who was buying from the stud only for the second time, said the ram appealed to him due to its make and shape and wool quality.
"He has a big frame with great stretch and a very nice, bold crimping, white wool," Mr Brayshaw said.
"He is just the type of ram I look for."
The upstanding, stylish woolled 126 kilogram, March-shorn ram, which carried Wallaloo Park bloodlines, has wool figures of 21.5-micron, 4.1 standard deviation (SD), 19.1 coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (CV), 97.0 per cent comfort factor (CF) and average greasy fleece weight (GFW) of 6.6kg from about five-and-a-half months of wool growth.
Along with securing the day's top-priced ram, Mr Brayshaw also purchased another four Poll Merino sires to finish with a team of five at an average of $4120.
Included in these other four purchases was a March shorn ram at $3800 that weighed 114kg and had wool figures of 21.5-micron, 3.7 SD, 17.2 CV and 98.5pc CF, and a 6.6kg GFW along with another March shorn sire at $3600 that weighed 118kg with figures of 21.4-micron, 3.6 SD, 16.8 CV, 98.5pc CF and 5.6kg GFW.
Mr Brayshaw said he was chasing rams with big frames and bold crimping wools to use in his nucleus flock.
"All five rams I purchased will go into our nucleus flock of 350 ewes to breed rams for our own use," Mr Brayshaw said.
"I bought some rams from Kolindale a couple of years ago and am happy with how they have bred, so I wanted to get some more this year to keep the bloodline going."
In addition to their nucleus flock, the Brayshaws join another 1500 ewes to Poll Merino rams.
The second top price for the day was $5800 and it was paid by 40-year clients Kim and Dane Stephen, KA & CM Stephen, Moorine Rock, for a long-bodied, long-stapled Poll ram in lot 10.
Kim Stephen said they picked this ram out for its nice, big frame as well as its good wool density and staple length.
The well-grown, 121kg, March shorn ram had wool figures of 19.5-micron, 2.7 SD, 14.1 CV, 99.5pc CF and a 4.7kg GFW.
But the Stephens didn't stop with just this ram.
They also secured another three Poll rams, including one at the day's equal third top price of $5000, to finish with four on the back of their ute averaging $4650.
Their $5000 purchase was a big, long-bodied 118kg March shorn ram which had wool figures of 20.4-micron, 3.0 SD, 14.5 CV, 99.5pc CF and 6.1kg GFW.
Mr Stephen said they had purchased from the stud for 40 years and liked Kolindale rams as they were dual-purpose types and good performers.
The Stephen family will join 1000 ewes to Poll Merino rams this season for an April lambing.
Esperance-producer Steve Fowler, Jumbuck Plains, made sure his trip to the sale wasn't wasted.
He purchased two March shorn Poll Merino rams, one at the $5000 - equal second top price - and one at $4000.
Mr Fowler's $5000 purchase was a big, upstanding 122kg ram which had wool figures of 17.9-micron, 3.0 SD, 16.5 CV, 99.6pc CF and a 5.1kg GFW.
The top price for a Merino ram was $4200 and it was set early in the sale when Mr King lined up over an upstanding March shorn ram with a great outlook in pen three.
Placing the winning bid on the 132kg sire was Kolindale representative Colin Lewis, who was carrying a buying order for return buyers the Starcevich family, Cramphorne Farms, Muntadgin.
The well-built ram had wool figures of 19.9-micron, 3.8 SD, 19.3 CV, 99.0pc CF and 6.9kg GFW.
Mr Lewis said the ram had very good wool and carcase traits.
"He is a big, heavy cutting, fine-medium type and he also has very good size and structure," Mr Lewis said.
"I think he was the best Merino ram in the line-up.
"He is also of a similar bloodline to what the Starcevichs have had in the past.
"He is by Kolindale 48, which goes back to a Wallaloo Park bloodline."
Several buyers were influential at the top end of the market and secured significant sized teams.
One of the biggest of these was client of 15 years Paul Barret, PM & MD Barrett, Jerramungup, who likes the Kolindale rams because they are fertile sheep and have good wool cuts.
"They are just a very reliable all-round type," Mr Barrett said.
"We always average over 100pc lambing and our ewes average 20.8-micron with an 8kg cut."
Mr Barrett went home with eight Merinos and two Poll Merinos to a top of $3800 and at an average of $2910.
"I was chasing mainly Merino rams that had a good length of body, good barrels and plenty of staple length," he said.
Also in this category was return buyer of eight years Eddie Tomsic, E & H Tomsic, Karlgarin, who purchased with the support of Westcoast Rural commercial sheep manager and Hyden agent Lincon Gangell.
Together the pair put together a team of eight Poll Merinos, which included a mix of March and April shorn rams, to a top of $3600 and an average of $2763, as they chased rams with strong heads, soft wools and good temperaments.
Mr Tomsic, who will join 2000 ewes to Poll Merino rams this year, said he has continued to return and buy from the stud as the Kolindale rams performed well for him.
"They yield and cut well and have good do-ability," Mr Tomsic said.
Other buyers to chose bigger teams in this price range were B & M Waddell, Newdegate, picking up six Polls at a $3417 average and to a top of $3700, while Gra-Mel Nominees, Badingarra, averaged $3200 over a team of four Merinos and VS & J Brown, Hyden, purchased six Merinos at a $2183 average.
In terms of numbers bought, the Varone family, Marlu Farms, Hyden, were the day's biggest buyers when they went home with 29 Poll Merino rams to a top of $3600 (three times) and an average of $2620.
Mario Varone said he liked the Kolindale sheep because they were large framed and had nice fine wools.
"They are the ideal sheep for Wheatbelt conditions," Mr Varone said.
The Varone's mature sheep average 21.5-micron, 76pc yield and an 8kg cut.
This season the family will join 3800 ewes to Merinos and Mr Varone said they were sticking with their sheep as they were confident the industry will rebound in the future.
Like in past years, the Fowler family's Chilwell account, Condingup, featured regularly in the buying sheets.
With Nutrien Livestock Breeding representative Mitchell Crosby buying for them, the Fowlers secured a team of 19 Poll Merinos and six Merinos to finish with 25 in total to a top of $3600 and an average of $1936.
Mr Crosby said he was chasing rams for the Fowlers that had good constitutions and carried long-stapled, bright, white wools.
Included in the team was a very special ram whose $3000 proceeds were being donated by the Ledwith family to the Shearing For Liz Pink Day fundraiser charity for Breast Cancer Research - WA.
Also buying numbers and showing no preference to horned or polled rams was the Mouritz family, RBY Mouritiz, Hyden, who has been buying from Kolindale for more than 40 years.
This year, it was Lachy Mouritz who was left with the buying duties and by the end of the sale he had secured nine Poll Merinos and four Merinos to a top of $3600 and an average of $2500.
Mr Mouritz said they continued to return and buy from the stud because the sheep were good doers and suited their environment.
"They have good growth and frames plus good stylish wools with plenty of staple length," Mr Mouritz said.
"Today I was looking for rams with nice big frames, good nourishment and wool cutting ability."
This year the Mouritz family is looking to join 2800 ewes to Merino rams and another 1000 Merino ewes to White Suffolks.
"We are sticking with our sheep, as we believe the industry will turn around, as we have seen before," Mr Mouritz said.
"It is not about buying rams for today but looking ahead and setting up our flock for the future when the industry turns around."
Fellow long-term buyers Barry and Clayton Hardie, Hardie Nominees Pty Ltd, Narrogin, also had significant influence on the sale, especially when it came to the Merino offering.
They purchased 14 Merino rams to a top of $3400 and average of $1950.
The Hardies, who will join 2500 ewes to Merino rams for a June lambing, were chasing rams with nice, bright, stylish wools.
The Hardies' Merino wether lambs are weaned at the end of September onto prepared pastures before being shorn and run on lupin stubbles.
They are then finished in a feedlot on the property before being sold in February/March.
Elders auctioneer and stud stock representative Nathan King said it was a good solid sale for the Ledwith family, with buying support right through the catalogue from old and new buyers.
"The top end of the market was as strong as past years, which was pleasing to see, while the numbers sold were back, which is like we have seen at most sales this season and is a reflection of the current conditions," Mr King said.
"Buyers today, like other sales, were willing to spend money on the rams which were best suited to taking their breeding programs forward as they keep an eye on the future while buying a few less rams than what they normally would."
Before the Merinos got underway, the day kicked-off with an offering of 195 White Suffolk rams carrying both Kolindale and Ashbourne bloodlines that were all presented with Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV).
The Nutrien Livestock auctioneering team led by Mark Warren rattled through the line-up and when the final ram was knocked down, 192 had been cleared under the hammer to 17 different buyers to a top of $1700 twice and an average of $985 - which was back $359 on last year's result.
In 2022, the Ledwith family offered and sold 251 rams to a top of $2000 and an average of $1344.
Nutrien Livestock Breeding representative Roy Addis said the Ledwith family offered a quality line-up of White Suffolk sires and it was pleasing to see them achieve a near 100pc clearance given seasonal and market conditions.
"The clearance for the sale was up on our pre-sale expectations on the back of some new orders," Mr Addis said.
"But in the end, we were still lacking a handful of buyers compared to previous years and this may not have impacted on the clearance but it did on prices due to the reduced buying competition on the rams."
The first ram to hit the $1700 equal top price in the line-up was an upstanding, long-bodied ram in lot three when it sold to the Tapscott family, DJ Tapscott & Co, Pingrup, which had previously bought from the Ashbourne stud.
Brad Tapscott said the ram had a good frame and a good set of figures.
"He is just a good type, which fits in with our requirements," Mr Tapscott said.
The ram, which carries Iveston bloodlines, has ASBVs of 0.38 birthweight (BWT), 10.29 weaning weight (WWT), 15.23 post weaning weight (PWWT), -0.69 post weaning fat (PFAT), 0.99 post weaning eye muscle (PEMD) and a TCP index of 134.91.
Along with the equal top-priced ram, the Tapscotts purchased another eight rams to finish with a team of nine at an average of $1378, which will join their sire battery and be mated to 1000 to 1200 Merino ewes this year for an April lambing.
The other ram to sell at the run's $1700 equal top price was catalogued in lot 11 and it was purchased by Mark Sullivan, Bellakin Grazing Co, Katanning, who will join 1000 Merino ewes to White Suffolks this year.
Mr Sullivan said his selection at $1700 was a top ram with a good structure.
"He had a good medium frame and wasn't too big, and he also had good figures especially for PWWT," Mr Sullivan said.
The ram, which is by Booloola 180263, has ASBVs of 0.30 BWT, 10.06 WWT, 15.85 PWWT, -0.10 PFAT, 1.29 PEMD and a TCP index of 138.65.
In addition to his equal top price purchase, Mr Sullivan also secured another five rams to finish with six on the ute at an average of $1150.
Return buyer of six years, Warren Thomas, RW & JM Thomas, Mt Barker, was again a strong supporter of the offering - purchasing six rams to a top of $1500 and an average of $1317.
Nutrien Livestock, Mt Barker agent Harry Carroll, purchased eight rams to a top of $1600 and an average of $1288 for return buyer Talawa Grazing Co, Mt Barker.
Mr Carroll said he was chasing rams that displayed good length and body shape for Talawa, who will use them over Prime SAMM-Merino cross ewes.
Other buyers operating at the top end included Hardie Nominees, which averaged $1186 over a team of four, while AH Burton Farming, Ravensthorpe, purchased three at a $1233 average.
As in the Merino side of the sale, the Fowler family, Chilwell, was again a volume buyer.
Buying through Nutrien Livestock, Esperance agent Darren Chatley, the Fowlers purchased a team of 25 rams at an average of $1156 and a top of $1500 (four times).
Mr Chatley said he was chasing early maturing, well-muscled rams with good length for the Fowlers.
The Fowlers, who have been using White Suffolks for more than 15 years, will this year join 8000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams for a lambing that starts in late March.
Another buyer to be influential in terms of numbers was Nutrien Livestock, Lake Grace agent Tyson Prater, who purchased 19 rams at an average of $1000 for return buyers, the Cameron family, PW & ML Cameron, Lake Grace.
Mr Prater said he was looking for rams with good sound structure that would produce fast growing lambs - as the Camerons aimed to turn off their lambs as suckers.
The Camerons have already sold their first draft of suckers for the year, with the line of 650 head going two weeks ago.
The line averaged more than 23kg dressed at five-months-old.
This year, the Camerons will join all 3000 of their Merino ewes to White Suffolk sires for an April lambing due to market conditions.
Other strong supporters of the offering were Elders, Gnowangerup, James Culleton, who purchased 20 rams at an average of $770 for a new Great Southern buyer who intends to join all their ewes to prime lamb sires this year, while Elders, Narrogin agent Paul Keppel held the bidding card for new buyer Willingvale Estate, Woodanilling and picked up 18 rams for them at an average of $833.
Also buying numbers was Nutrien Livestock, Darkan agent Richard Buckland, who purchased 15 rams at an $860 average for a Wagin account.
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