Buyers were treated to an impressive line-up of quality white woolled Merinos and growthy, well-muscled prime lamb sires at last week's 29th Annual Williams Breeders' Ram Sale.
And, despite market conditions, the buyers in attendance showed they had their eyes on the future.
With support from the 36 registered local buyers and others from further afield - who know the quality genetics being bred in the Williams area and have faith in the sheep industry going forward - the four local studs involved walked away happy with the results.
In the sale, prices hit a high of $4700 for a Poll Merino ram and $1200 for a White Suffolk sire.
Combined, the studs offered 129 Merino and Poll Merino rams and 80 prime lamb sires.
However, reduced buying support compared to previous years, due to some clients wanting less rams and some wanting none at all, both prices and the clearance were back.
This year, the sale achieved a clearance rate of 78pc, which was back from the 90pc achieved last year, while the overall sale averaged $1101 for the 164 rams sold, which was back $328 on last year's average of $1429 for 228 rams sold when there was much more positivity surrounding the sheep and wool industries.
Both Elders auctioneer and stud stock representative Nathan King and Nutrien Livestock Breeding representative Mitchell Crosby agreed it was a quality line-up of rams across the shed and the final result was not an indication of the rams offered, but rather the market.
Mr Crosby said the sale followed the trend of other sales this year with the prices being back, but buyers still showed they were prepared to pay for the rams they really wanted.
"I think, overall, the clearance was good given market conditions," Mr Crosby said.
Mr King also said the overall clearance for the sale was good.
"It was an excellent presentation of rams across the shed and buyers certainly got good value for money with their purchasing," Mr King said.
"I think there were probably a couple of buyers who topped up with an extra few rams today as the values were in their favour."
The sale started on the Merino and Poll Merino offering and it was significantly smaller than previous years, with vendors cutting back their numbers on the back of knowing clients wouldn't be buying or were wanting less rams due to what was happening in the industry.
When the Elders and Nutrien Livestock auctioneering teams finished on the last Merino, 99 out of the 129 rams offered by three studs had been sold under the hammer for an average of $1237, which was back $377 on last year.
In comparison, in last year's sale, 141 Merino and Poll Merinos sold from 159 offered by three vendors at an average of $1614.
In the breakdown 82 from 108 Poll Merinos sold at an average of $1245, back $410 on 2022, while the Merino side of the catalogue saw 17 rams sold from 21 offered at an average of $1200, back $217.
The Haddrick family's Toorackie stud kicked off with an offering of 40 Poll Merinos and topped the section and overall sale, when a big, square, deep-bodied Poll Merino sire from its offering was knocked down at $4700.
After Nutrien Livestock auctioneer Ben Hankinson took an opening bid of $1500 on the upstanding ram, a mini bidding war broke out between two return buyers who threw bids in at quick succession as they chased the flock improver.
In the end it was the Schulz family, SJ & BJ Schulz, Williams, which had the final bid at $4700.
Lewis Schulz said they were very happy to have been able to to purchase the ram as it has excellent carcase traits and wool cutting ability.
"He has a good, big barrel, a long staple length and is a heavy wool cutter," Mr Schulz said.
"He is just a big upstanding ram with plenty of wool all over."
The ram had current wool figures of 20.9-micron and 99.2 per cent comfort factor (CF) to go with a greasy fleece weight (GFW) percentage of 121pc which was the equal second highest in the Toorackie team.
It also had a weaning weight (WWT) percentage of 110pc, a yearling weight (YWT) percentage of 109pc and a weight gain (WTGN) percentage of 98pc.
Mr Schulz said they had recently decided to establish a nucleus flock of 120 ewes to breed their own rams from and they would use this ram over ewes in that flock.
This year the Schulz family will join 2000 ewes to Merino rams and another 3000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk sires for a lambing starting in early May.
The next best price in the Toorackie team was $3000, which was also the overall second top price.
Bidding to $3000 for a Toorackie sire was return buyer Damien Batt, Matlock Farms Pty Ltd, Boddington.
Mr Batt went to $3000 for a deep-bodied, upstanding sire which measured 18.9-micron and 99.5pc CF in the wool and had a GFW percentage of 112pc.
It also had a WWT percentage of 103pc, a YWT percentage of 99pc and a WTGN percentage of 96pc.
Along with this ram, the Batt family purchased another four rams to finish with a team of five at an average of $1880.
Also in their team was a ram at $2600 which had wool figures of 19.8-micron, 97.4pc CF, as well as a GFW percentage of 118pc and a WTGN percentage of 103pc.
Return buyer Dan Zadow, WR & PC Zadow, Kojonup, may have missed out on the top-priced Toorackie run but he didn't head back down Albany highway with an empty ute.
He ended the day with three rams to his name to a top of $1500 and an average of $1167.
The volume buyer in the run was repeat client Kim Medlen, KN & LA Medlen, Williams, finishing with eight rams to a top of $1000 four times and an average of $913.
Just one ram behind in volume buyer stakes was Gerard Medlen, GH & JD Medlen, Williams, averaging $1086 over a team of seven purchased under the hammer to a top of $1900.
All up the Haddrick family's Toorackie stud offered 40 rams and by the end of its run had sold 28 under the hammer to eight buyers for an average of $1282, which was back $584 on last year.
In comparison, last year they sold 59 rams from 61 offered at an average of $1866.
The Hogg family's Navanvale stud was next up with an offering of 50 Merino and Poll Merino rams and with support from returning and new buyers, they cleared 39 under the hammer to 10 buyers to a top of $2900 and a sale high average of $1436, which was back $13 on last year.
Last year the stud offered 58 rams and sold 47 under the hammer for an average of $1449 to 13 buyers.
Broken down, Navanvale sold 30 Poll Merinos from 39 offered at an average of $1433, back $48 and nine Merinos from 11 offered at an average of $1444, which was up $56.
The $2900 top-priced Navanvale ram was a Poll Merino ram and it was purchased by first time buyer Jon Macnamara, Westmere Grazing, Williams.
Nutrien Livestock, Williams representative Peter Moore, who helped Mr Macnamara select the ram, said it was a well-nourished, free-growing ram with a good frame.
"We were looking for free-growing types that had wools that could cope with the rainfall of the Williams area," Mr Moore said.
The upstanding, long-bodied, well-nourished, stylish woolled ram, which carried Glenlea Park bloodlines, had current wool figures of 21.0-micron, 3.0 SD, 99.8pc CF and GFW of 5.5kg (six months growth), along with scans of 32.2mm eye muscle depth (EMD) and 4.6mm fat at 12-months-old.
The Macnamara family purchased another five Poll Merinos from the Navanvale offering to finish with six at an average of $2083.
They also paid the second top price of $2600 in the Navanvale team for a Poll Merino ram which had current wool figures of 19.8-micron, 3.0 SD, 99.9pc CF and GFW of 5.5kg (six months growth), along with scans of 34mm EMD and 6.1mm fat at 12-months-old.
Other buyers to bid up positively on the Navanvale Poll Merinos included Dwarderdine, Williams, which purchased two rams to a top of $2500 and an average of $1367, while Rodney Ford, Rachl Pty Ltd, Williams, averaged $1200 over a team of four that topped at $2000 and FJ Carter, Woodanilling, secured five sires to a top of $1700 and an average of $1140.
The top-priced Merino ram in the Navanvale run sold at $2100 to return buyer Des Tilbrook, CA & DA Tilbrook, Tammin, for his one and only purchase on the day.
This ram carried Westray bloodlines and had current wool figures of 20.7-micron, 3.2 SD, 99.7pc CF and GFW of 6.2kg (six months growth), along with scans of 29.6mm EMD and 3.4mm fat at 12-months-old.
Return buyer Rodney Petchell, WG & EM Petchell, Williams, bought only from the Merino side of the team and went home with three Navanvale Merinos to a top of $1600 and an average of $1233.
Showing no preference for Merino or Poll Merino sires in the Navanvale offering was client of more than 10 years Jamie Anderson, Glenorchy Grazing, Williams.
With the support of Mr Crosby, Mr Anderson purchased nine Polls and five Merinos at an average of $1350 and to a top of $2100 to be the volume buyer in the Navanvale run.
The Rintoul family's Auburn Valley stud rounded out the sale's Merino and Poll Merino offering with a team of 29 Poll Merinos and 10 Merinos and they achieved an 82pc clearance, compared to 85pc last year while their average was back like the other studs.
Under the hammer, the stud cleared 24 Poll Merinos to a top of $1400 three times and an average of $967 (down $426) and eight Merinos to a top of $1800 and an average of $925 (down $550) to four buyers to finish with an overall average of $956, which was down $455.
In comparison, last year Auburn Valley sold 35 rams under the hammer from 41 offered at an average of $1411.
Leading the charge in the stud's offering and selling at the $1800 top price was an upstanding, stylish, white woolled Merino ram when it was knocked down to return buyer Bob Treasure, RE & OM Treasure & Son, Wandering.
The 98.5kg ram, which carried East Mundalla Jonty and Pooginook Gem bloodlines on its sire's side, had current wool figures of 20.0-micron, 3.3 SD, 16.5 CV and 99.7pc CF to with an EMD of -0.65mm below the team average and a fat figure which was the same as the team average.
Mr Treasure said while he had a preference to buy Poll rams, he couldn't go past this horned ram due to its wool quality.
"I think it was the best woolled sheep in the team and wool quality and wool whiteness is what we chase first and foremost," Mr Treasure said.
"He has bright, white wool displaying plenty of style and good wool cutting ability."
Not only did the Treasure family purchase the top-priced ram from the Auburn Valley run, it also purchased 11 Poll Merino sires to a top of $1400 (equal top Poll price) and an average of $1000 to finish with a team of 12 all up.
The Treasure's $1400 Poll purchased was a 104kg ram, which carried Banavie 333 bloodlines and had wool figures of 21.6-micron, 2.9 SD, 13.4 CV and 99.5pc CF along with EMD of +3.85mm above the team average and a fat figure which on the team average.
Mr Treasure said they had been buying from Auburn Valley for several years and were very happy with the results they were getting - especially when it came to their wool.
"We are shearing at home at the moment and one of the shearers made the comment after shearing our ewe hoggets that they were the best woolled Merino hoggets they had shorn this year," Mr Treasure said.
This year the Treasures are looking to join 3000 ewes to Merinos and another 600 Merino ewes to Poll Dorsets for a May/June lambing, which is a similar number to last year.
Also bidding up strongly in the Auburn Valley run was long-term client the Maiolo family, RA & A Maiolo, Narrogin.
They purchased two of the other rams to sell for the $1400 equal top Poll price in the run as part of a team of four Poll Merinos that averaged $1150.
The first ram they secured at $1400 carried Banavie 333 bloodlines, weighed 107kg and had wool figures of 20.5-micron, 3.3 SD, 16.1 CV and 99.8pc CF, along with EMD of +0.35mm above the team average and a fat figure was +0.1mm above the team average.
Its second ram at $1400 was based on Westerdale bloodlines on its sire's side and weighed 100kg.
It had wool figures of 21.8-micron, 3.7 SD, 17.0 CV and 98.7pc CF along with EMD of -1.15mm below the team average and a fat figure was +1.0mm above the team average.
The volume buyer in the Auburn Valley run going home with eight Poll Merinos and six Merinos to a top of $900 paid for a Poll sire and an average of $807 was Ian Wilkie, IM Wilkie & Son, Williams.
The Auburn Valley stud again supported the Shearing For Liz Pink Day fundraiser charity for Breast Cancer Research - WA, donating the proceeds of the sale of a ram from its sale and team and that ram sold for $800 to a new client.
This year the Bingham family's Iveston stud, Williams, was the only vendor in the prime lamb sire section, offering 80 sires representing the South Suffolk, White Suffolk and UltraWhite breeds.
By the end of the run they had cleared 65 of the 80 rams offered under the hammer to a top of $1200 paid for a White Suffolk sire and an average of $894, which was back $269 on their overall average of $1163 achieved last year when it sold 79 rams from 85 offered.
The Binghams kicked off their offering with a team of 10 South Suffolks which all sold under the hammer to four different buyers to a top of $1100 and an average of $910, which was back $300 on the 2022 result.
Taking home the stud's $1100 top-priced South Suffolk ram was return buyer Phil Martin, LR & MD Martin, Williams, who also purchased another five rams from the offering including two at $1000 to finish with a team of six at an average of $942.
Mr Martin went to $1100 for a ram which had a current weight of 112kg to go with a 41kg weaning weight and post weaning figures of 49.5kg body weight, 26.3mm EMD and 3.5mm fat.
The only other multiple buyer of South Suffolk rams was Egypt Estate, Mt Barker, which picked up two rams both at $800.
Next up for the Binghams was their White Suffolk sires and in these pens they offered 60 rams and sold 52 under the hammer to 10 different buyers to a top of $1200 and an average of $896, which was down $182 on last year.
Securing the $1200 top-priced White Suffolk sire was client of 15 years Chris Biddulph, TC & JC Biddulph, Ravensthorpe.
Mr Biddulph said he liked the top-priced ram as it was a big, tall, long-bodied ram.
"I like buying from Iveston because they breed big, upstanding rams with beautiful length and their rams breed quick growing lambs," Mr Biddulph said.
The top-priced ram, which was a son of Iveston 201350 had Australian Sheep Breeding Values of 0.53 birthweight, 12.6 weaning weight, 19.2 post weaning weight, -1.1 post weaning fat, 2.3 post weaning EMD and a terminal carcase production (TCP) index of 148.3.
Along with purchasing Iveston's top-priced ram, Mr Biddulph purchased another seven White Suffolk sires from the stud to finish with a team of eight at an average price of $969.
This year Mr Biddulph said he would join 2000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams for an April lambing.
"We wean our lambs onto manipulated pastures in early September and then they are run on stubbles before we finish them on Milne Feeds pellets and lupins for six to eight weeks before they are sold," he said.
"We aim to sell them in early April at an average dressed weight of 25-27kg to WAMMCO and 95pc of them hit the WAMMCO sweet spot."
The next best price for an Iveston White Suffolk was $1100 and it was achieved twice.
The first to pay $1100 was the Hogg family, CJ & JP Hogg, Williams, when it bid the value for a ram with a TCP index of 142.2.
The Hoggs also purchase a second White Suffolk ram at $950.
The other buyer to go to $1100 was Tim Wiese, RL & CM Wiese, Narrogin, for a ram which had a 150.8 TCP index.
In addition to this ram, Mr Wiese secured another five White Suffolks for a team of six at a $992 average.
The volume buyer in the run was Sam Highham, JH & SK Higham, Williams, who purchased nine rams to a top of $950 twice and an average of $856, while WR Steer & Co, Williams and Tuer Pty Ltd, Williams, both collected seven rams each at averages of $879 and $800 respectively.
The Binghams rounded out their offering with 10 UltraWhite rams of which only three sold under the hammer all at $800.
All three rams that sold were purchased by Ross Major, RG Major & Co, Williams.
The Iveston stud also supported the Shearing For Liz Pink Day fundraiser charity for Breast Cancer Research - WA, donating the average value across their team of $894 to the cause.
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