It was a big day at Gnowangerup last Wednesday when the House family, Barloo and Willemenup studs, put up the State's second largest Merino and Poll Merino offering in their on-property ram sale.
In spite of market conditions, the stud's strong buyer following was out in force to support the sale and this saw the House family record another strong sale result that - come season's end - will rank as one of the biggest in Western Australia for the year.
This year, the family put together an impressive offering of 298 well-grown, well-made, quality-woolled Barloo and Willemenup blood sires and buyers responded accordingly, pushing prices to a high of $6400 for both a Merino and Poll Merino ram.
Right through the catalogue there was good competition from the 47 registered stud and commercial buyers who had travelled from as far afield as Mingenew in the north, Ravensthorpe in the south east and Merredin in the Wheatbel - as well as New South Wales.
As a result, rams in the last row were still making more than $2000 when they were the right types for buyers.
When the numbers were crunched after close to three and half hours of selling by Elders auctioneers Nathan King and James Culleton, 264 - or 89 per cent of the rams offered - were headed to 43 new homes to a top of $6400 twice, an average of $1959 and for a gross of $517,100.
In comparison, last year when the markets and confidence in the industry were much higher, the stud offered 326 rams and sold 316 under the hammer to a top of $8750 and an average of $2181.
In the break-down, the Houses offered 104 Merino rams and sold 96 under the hammer at an average price of $2245 (back $115 on last year), while 168 Poll Merinos sold from an offering of 194 at an average price of $1795 (back $283 on last year).
Elders stud stock representative Russell McKay said it was a quality offering of large-framed, productive Merino and Poll Merino rams and buyers responded accordingly.
"It was a consistent line of rams showing great width of carcase, structural soundness and excellent wool qualities across both the Merino and Poll offering," Mr McKay said.
"All the rams showed the qualities of frame, production and wool quality Barloo is renowned for - they were a credit to the House family."
Again, there was very good buying support from long-term clients from all areas of the State - from Ravensthorpe to Mingenew, plus all across the Great Southern.
"Buyers, like other sales this year, continued to buy to their quality standards and weren't prepared to lower them," Mr McKay said.
"But they did reduce the numbers they purchased.
"It was a solid sale throughout, with the clearance on par with expectations and prices slightly better than pre-sale expectations."
An offering of 21 March-shorn, shed-prepared rams started the sale and they got off to a very solid beginning, selling for an average price of $3895, while the first 100 rams averaged $2523.
With the impressive line-up of March-shorn rams leading the sale, it was no surprise that the top price of $6400 was set very early in the sale when a Poll Merino ram and then a Merino ram catalogued in lots two and three sold at this value.
When Mr King stood over the upstanding, structurally correct Poll ram in lot two, he received an opening bid of $3000 and from there interested parties threw in bids in quick succession.
Eventually when the price hit $6400, Mr King knocked the ram down to first-time buyer Craig Last, Aylesbury stud, Merredin.
The impressive, March-shorn, 115 kilogram ram is by East Mundalla Masterbuilt 53, which was purchased by the Barloo stud at the 2021 Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Merino Ram Sale for $51,000.
It has current wool figures of 20.9-micron, 2.9 standard deviation (SD), 14.0 coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (CV) and 99.9 per cent comfort factor (CF) to go with a wool growth rate of 830 grams per month and a body growth rate of 347 grams per day.
Mr Last said they had been looking for a new bloodline for their stud this year and saw the Masterbuilt sons at this year's Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Merino Ram Sale at Katanning.
"I was impressed by their big frames and their wool type which is suited to the Wheatbelt, so I decided to come down to the sale for a look," Mr Last said.
"To me, this ram was the pick of the Masterbuilt sons in the team.
"He has a big frame and a very good white crimpy wool to go with it.
"He has all the carcase and wool traits we are looking for."
Matching the upstanding Masterbuilt son in the top price stakes was its next door neighbour, a well-grown, March-shorn, 117.5kg Merino ram in lot three.
After taking an opening bid of $3000 again, Mr King didn't have to work very hard for the bids to roll in as the ram proudly displayed its scale and outlook as it went under the hammer.
This time it was Kevin Broad, bidding on behalf of David Gaze and family, Kebaringup Farm, Gnowangerup, who had the final bid at the day's $6400 equal top price.
Mr Gaze said he hadn't purchased from Barloo for about seven to eight years, but was back this year as he was looking for a new bloodline to introduce into his nucleus flock of 250 ewes from which they breed rams for their own use.
"I was chasing a carcase-type sheep and I think this ram ticks that box," Mr Gaze said.
"I saw him at Barloo's on-property field day in August and was impressed by his outlook.
"He stands up very well and has a very good wool quality for a ram of its size."
Mr Broad said the ram was a carcase sheep with a stylish wool and that combination was hard to find.
The ram, which was from the stud's Dominator family, had wool figures of 21.5-micron, 3.5 SD, 16.3 CV and 99.2pc CF.
It had a daily growth rate of 332gm/day and a wool growth rate of 936gm/month.
Mr Gaze, who likes the Barloo bloodline for its frame size and quick maturity, said this year they would join 2300 ewes to Merino rams this season for a June lambing.
"We aim to sell our wethers at about 11-months-old to processors," Mr Gaze said.
"Usually we run them on barley stubbles first and then finish them in our feedlot."
The third top price for the day was $5200, bid by clients of 47 years Greg and Damien Stewart, Teddington Farms, Gnowangerup.
They went to $5200 for the final March-shorn ram offered - a Merino sire carrying Impact 36 bloodlines.
The 111.5kg ram has wool figures of 19.9-micron, 3.0 SD, 15.1 CV and 99.5pc CF to go with a daily growth rate of 344gm/day and a wool growth rate of 957gm/month.
Damien Stewart said they were impressed by this ram's frame size and white, stylish, free-growing wool.
Along with securing this ram, the Stewarts purchased another seven Merino sires to finish with a team of eight at an average of $3613 to be one of the most influential buyers.
"We like the Barloo sheep as they are big, well-grown sheep, with good conformation and good wools," Greg Stewart said.
"They are big, strong, robust, productive animals."
The Stewart's mature ewes average 20-21-micron and an 8-8.5kg wool cut.
This season, the Stewarts are aiming to join 1200 ewes to Merino rams and another 500 Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams.
There were three Poll rams in the offering to make $5000.
The first to pay the $5000 price tag was Wayne and Jodie Pech, North Stirling Downs Pty Ltd, Gnowangeup, who also purchased a second Poll at $1900.
The Pechs $5000 purchase was a March-shorn, Wallaloo Park 226 son which had a body weight of 118kg, a growth rate of 316gm/day and a wool growth rate of 1043gm/month.
It had wool figures of 20.5-micron, 3.0 SD, 14.8 CV and 99.6pc CF.
Capemont Farms, Katanning, was next to pay $5000 when it had the final bid on a 131kg ram carrying Spartacus bloodlines from the Willemenup flock.
The ram had wool figures of 22.5-micron, 3.1 SD, 13.8 CV and 98.4pc CF, along with a growth rate of 334gm/day and a wool growth rate of 842gm/month.
In addition to this ram, Capemont Farms purchased another three Poll Merinos to finish with a team of four at an average of $2650.
Rounding out the buyers to pay $5000 was Heal Farming Pty Ltd, Three Springs, which purchased a 120kg Poll Merino sire which had wool figures of 21.8-micron, 3.1 SD, 14.3 CV and 98.8pc CF.
The ram, which carried Spartacus bloodlines from the Willemenup flock, had a daily growth rate of 309gm/day and a wool growth rate of 772gm/month.
Also heading to the Heal's Three Spring property was another Poll ram at $2000.
The volume buyer in the sale this year was Geoff Cosgrove, Cosgrove Farming, Mingenew, who has been buying from Barloo for more than 35 years.
Mr Cosgrove purchased a team of four Merinos and 11 Poll Merinos at an average price of $2547.
He paid a top of $4400 for a 108kg Merino ram measuring 19.8-micron, 3.4 SD, 17.3 CV and 99.4pc CF.
The Dominator 10 son had the second highest wool growth rates in the catalogue of 1064gm/month and a daily growth rate of 296gm/day.
Mr Cosgrove said Barloo sheep have good robustness, big frames and heavy wool cuts.
The Cosgrove's flock averages 19-20.5-micron and a 7kg wool cut/head across everything, while their lambing percentage sits between 95 and 100pc.
This year, the Cosgroves are looking to join 2500 ewes to Merino and Poll Merino sires for a May/June lambing - which is a similar number to previous years.
The Stewart family, D M MCL & JA Stewart, Lake Grace, who have been buying from the House family for more than 50 years, Crystal Brook Grazing, Kojonup and Warrenup Pastoral Co, Kojonup, were all looking for Poll sires and each went home with a baker's dozen.
Warrenup Pastoral Co averaged $1738 over its team, while Crystal Brook Farming averaged $1177 and the Stewarts averaged $908.
Just behind these three in the numbers game was C & M English, Wagin, who purchased 12 Merinos for a $1325 average and Tarup Creek Farming, Kojonup, that finished with 11 Poll Merinos at a $1582 average price.
Having an influence at the top end of the market and buying numbers was Rohan Mead, AK & AJ Mead, Ravensthorpe, who has been buying from the Barloo stud for five years.
Mr Mead worked his way through the catalogue and finished the day with 10 Merino sires to a top of $4200 and an average of $3090.
He said he was only interested in Merino rams and was chasing those that were heavy wool cutters in the 20-22-micron range.
"They had to have both good wool and body growth rates," Mr Mead said.
The Meads will join 3500 ewes to Merino sires for a July/August lambing.
Mr Mead said they were keeping their numbers pretty similar this year and weren't looking at cutting back - given what was happening in the market.
"We like the sheep/cropping mix we have as it works well for us," he said.
"We are sticking with our sheep as we believe it will turn around."
Return buyers TA & RA Ross, Jerramungup and AD & RE Marshall, Lake Grace, featured regularly on the clerking sheets when they each purchased 10 rams.
The Ross family secured 10 Polls to a top price of $2400 and an average price of $2030, while the Marshalls purchased four Merinos and six Poll Merinos to a top price of $2300 and an average price of $1830.
Also supporting the sale from Jerramungup and going home with five Merinos and five Polls at an $1640 average price was PM & MD Barrett.
NSW buyer John Glanville, Glanville Pastoral Trust, Grenfell, along with his classer Stuart Schneider, were at the sale in person for the first time - having previously left buying orders in the past couple of years.
Mr Glanville, who will join 1800 ewes to Merinos this year, finished the day with six Merino rams to a top price of $4000 and an average price of $2867.
He said he liked the make and shape of the Barloo rams.
"They are good carcase sheep and also have the wools that can handle our 600 millimetre annual rainfall," Mr Glanville said.
"Today we were chasing the fine micron rams that were heavy cutters," he said.
Other buyers operating strongly in the sale included Peter Bailey Partners, Narembeen, which averaged $2550 over a team of eight Merinos, while ER Bungey & Son, Borden, purchased four Polls at a $3700 average.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.