An UltraWhite ram with a high fertility gene was in great demand at the 44th annual Hillcroft Farms UltraWhite production sale at Popanyinning last week, pushing the sale top price once again to $20,500.
But, despite the breed receiving strong interest from around Australia, it was a local buyer who came out on top with the winning bid.
The ram in pen 71 was one of 25 rams with the HFplus gene to be offered for sale by the Bradford family for the first time.
Ash Wiese, trading as Yarranabee Holdings, Highbury, was the successful bidder on the ram, which displayed Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV) including -0.3 birthweight (BWT), 7.81 weaning weight (WWT), 11.49 post weaning weight (PWWT), 0.08 post weaning fat (PFAT), 2.16 post weaning eye muscle depth (PEMD) and a Terminal Carcase Production (TCP) index of 138.67.
It was one of three HFplus rams Mr Wiese bought among his total of 14 UltraWhite rams, for which he paid an average of $4350.
Attending the sale with his farm manager Ashley Forrest, Mr Wiese said they had first ventured into running the breed about three years ago and were slowly trying to increase the flock.
They had recently bought some UltraWhite ewes and ewe lambs to help increase numbers to about 2000 ewes and therefore needed more rams.
While they looked at all of the figures of the rams they bought, they were also keen to secure some of the newly released HFplus ram genetics.
"We really rate the effort that has gone into getting the HFplus gene for fertility," Mr Wiese said.
"We are trying to get as many lambs on the ground as quickly as possible and if we can spread the gene across the flock it is easy to justify spending the money on the genetics."
Mr Wiese said he had been pleased with the breed, highly rating its shedding from an ease of management point-of-view.
Prior to the 11am auction getting underway, stud principal Dawson Bradford addressed the attendees, explaining how the family was committed to being the breed of first choice for shedding breeds.
"We are making huge inroads into producing a non-shearing, highly fertile, easy-care, low maintenance sheep that is hardy and will perform under a wide range of conditions, it is a gap we are trying to fill," Mr Bradford said.
"This year we are releasing the first of our HFplus high fertility genetics, that will lift the fertility of our flocks to another level as it flows through."
In what was a huge four-and-a-half hour sale, officiated over by two Nutrien Livestock auctioneers - stalwart Steve Wright, who disclosed at its conclusion that it was his last sheep auction, and newcomer Austin Gerhardy - a total of 360 UltraWhite ewes and rams were offered for sale, of which 252 sold at an average of $3443.
The catalogue consisted of 70 stud ewes, of which 25 sold at an average of $2264 and to a top of $6800, as well as 24 HFplus stud rams offered, with 23 sold at an average of $7352 and to the sale-top of $20,500 and 266 stud rams of which 204 sold at an average of $3147 and to a top of $16,000.
Interest in the shedding breed remained strong, with 54 of the 67 registered buyers for the afternoon making a purchase, one of which was AuctionsPlus.
Once again AuctionsPlus footage of every individual lot was televised on a big screen in the shed and there was plenty of activity on the online selling platform, with representative Trinity Edwards relaying 488 bids throughout the sale on 137 lots.
Of those, 56 lots were sold to 14 of 19 active online bidders from WA, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria at an average of $3409 and to a top of $18,000, with the online takings of $190,900 accounting for almost a quarter of the stud's total gross.
The top-priced online lot was destined for Cummins, South Australia and was a September 2022-drop HFplus ram with figures including -0.13 BWT, 8.25 WWT, 11.54 PWWT, 0.17 PFAT, 2.35 PEMD and a 140.12 TCP index.
The same buyer successfully bid on a total of four rams, all of which were HFplus rams.
The volume online buyer was not from interstate but rather from Narembeen.
They successfully bid on 14 rams at an average of $2371 and to a top of $3400.
Eight rams were headed to Eurongilly, NSW, after being bought at an average of $2575 and to a top of $3600, while another seven rams were off to Minlaton, in South Australia, at an average of $2343 and to a top of $3000 twice.
A Kendenup bidder bought six rams to a top of $2600, while four rams were bought by a client in Elmore, Victoria, to a top of $3600.
While some people had come to the sale simply for a look or to start their UltraWhite journey, and others to secure more rams for commercial purposes, there were also studs among the successful buyers.
Nathan Ditchburn, Golden Hill stud, Kukerin, bought the second-top priced ram of the afternoon, paying $19,400 for a HFplus ram with figures including -0.03 BWT, 8.53 WWT, 12.07 PWWT, 0.18 PFAT, 1.77 PEMD and a 137.31 TCP index.
Mr Ditchburn, who recently offered 90 of his own UltraWhite rams in the family's on-property sale, said he was looking in particular for a ram with the HFplus gene that he could register for use within his stud.
"We have enough pedigree in the (150 stud) ewes, we were looking for a clean-shedding ram that was clean on its feet," he said.
Mr Ditchburn said he had been really happy with the performance of the breed and was looking to conduct three matings in two years with his 1200-head commercial flock.
Another stud operation, which paid the top price of $16,000 for an UltraWhite ram with -0.01 BWT, 9.69 WWT, 13.63 PWWT, 1.11 PFAT, 2.35 PEMD and a 141.60 TCP index, was GA Treweek & WL Whelan, Induro stud, Wakool, NSW.
Meanwhile Nick Cheetham, Cheetara stud, South Kumminin, topped up his genetics with an UltraWhite ram for $4000.
Selling first got underway in the morning with the offering of 70 UltraWhite stud ewes of which 25 were sold to six different buyers.
The top price of $6800 was paid by Robbie Logie, RJ Logie, Williams, for a ewe with ASBVs including -0.01 BWT, 9.99 WWT, 15.26 PWWT, 0.43 PFAT, 2.05 PEMD and a 145.72 TCP index.
Mr Logie also bought another stud ewe for $1800 and an UltraWhite ram for $14,000.
Volume buyers in the ewes were Perry Jasper and Penny Bloodworth, Cunderdin, who snapped up eight ewes and two rams at $1800.
Mr Jasper, formerly of the Jolma Poll Dorset stud, said he had missed running sheep and was attracted to the easy-care features of the breed.
"The UltraWhites fit the bill, you don't need a shearing shed, there's no shearing or crutching, they're good for flies where we are," he said.
Mr Jasper said they had bought some commercial ewe lambs earlier this year and wanted to buy some more at the sale, as well as a couple of rams, with a view to potentially starting their own UltraWhite stud.
The bulk of the remaining ewes sold went to two buyers - Stoney Enterprise, Gnowellen, which bought eight ewes at an average of $2200 and to a top of $3000 twice and Black Swan Farms, Yanmah, which bought five ewes at an average of $2440 including to a top of $2800 twice.
Although buyer registration number 40 was the most commonly heard throughout the sale as it indicated an AuctionsPlus bidder, there were some individual volume buyers among the catalogue.
Audrey Bird, Windorah Farms, Wickepin, bought 12 rams at an average of $2617, including paying to a top of $3800 for one of two HFplus rams she secured.
Ms Bird said it was her second year buying from Hillcroft Farms and she was keen to try out the HFplus rams on their 200 head of UltraWhite ewes.
"It's pretty exciting, fertility needs to be a focus with most of the shedding breeds, and I look forward to the years to come with the fertility gene coming through," Ms Bird said.
"There's so much science coming through which is exciting, so we look at the figures, but also their conformation."
Ms Bird said she preferred better measured rams and wasn't as concerned if they had extra coverage if they had good genetics.
Another 10 rams were destined for Jennacubbine, with Tristan O'Brien paying an average of $2780 and to a top of $3200 four times.
Despite being out-bid on some earlier lots, Trevor Leeson, TKW Leeson, Wickepin, persevered and secured eight rams at an average of $3100, including paying to a top of $3600 twice.
He has been buying UltraWhites since they had first been offered by the Bradford family.
"I like that they are easy care, not much labour is required to run them, they don't need as much handling as they don't need to be crutched for example," Mr Leeson said.
He selected his rams based on a good structure and shedding, as well as good figures, and said they would be mated to about 2000 UltraWhite and Dorper breeding ewes.
Also buying eight rams was Bowey Ventures, Kulin, which paid an average of $2625 and to a top of $3400 and Timaru Farming, Kulin, which bought eight at an average of $2675 and to a top of $3200.
Another long time client who was back to secure more genetics for his commercial UltraWhite production was Nathan Davey, Davina Enterprises, Konnongorring.
Nutrien Livestock, Wongan Hills representative Grant Lupton bid on behalf of Mr Davey, securing seven rams at an average of $3400 and to a top of $3800.
Mr Lupton said they were looking at rams with a sound structure and softer, downier-type shedding, while this year also focusing on their post-weaning weight figures.
He said Davina Enterprises was running about 1800 UltraWhite ewes and conducting three matings every two years and would be offering 300 ewe lambs in the Nutrien Livestock Maternal sale to be conducted online by AuctionsPlus on October 26.
Six rams were staying local, bought by Marawonga Nominees Pty Ltd, Popanyinning, at an average of $3700 and to a top of $4000, while five were headed further afield to the Hoggart Family Trust, Esperance, at an average of $3240 and to a top of $3600; Black Swan Farms, Yanmah, at an average of $2440 and to a top of $2800 twice and Flohr & Co, South Australia, at an average of $3960 and to a top of $5400.
Several buyers also selected four rams each - MJ & KM Wilson, Kulin, at an average of $3100 and to a top of $3600; King Springs Pastoral at an average of $3600 and to a top of $4000; CC & LM Penny, Ravensthorpe, at an average of $2850 and to a top of $3400; GA & CA Groves, Tambellup, at an average of $2250 and to a top of $2800; DM Cornish, Wandering, at an average of $2100 and to a top of $2400 and Waitavalo Farm Pty Ltd, Narembeen, at an average of $2200 and to a top of $2800.
Snooke Enterprises, Northampton, paid an average of $6633 for three, including to a top of $8500 for an HFplus ram, while losing bidders on the top and second-top rams, HA & SA Panizza & Co, Arthur River, bought three HFplus rams at an average of $4667.
Meanwhile JP & JL Broun, Beverley, paid $15,000 for their only purchase of the day, an UltraWhite ram.
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