A very even line of quality, bright, white woolled rams with good wool cutting ability and carcase traits greeted buyers in the shed at the Westerdale Poll Merino on-property ram sale at McAlinden last week.
From the opening call, the strong list of return buyers in attendance - who know what the genetics can do - showed their appreciation for the rams on offer, despite the current position of the sheep industry.
Like in other sales this year, buyers showed they were prepared to pay for the rams they really wanted but their buying orders were smaller, influencing the number of rams sold this year compared to last.
When the final ram was knocked down by Elders auctioneer Nathan King, the stud had cleared 89 out of 100 rams under the hammer to 19 different buyers, to a top of $4000 three times and an average of $1710, which was back by $357 on last year.
In comparison, last year the stud sold 139 rams out of 140 offered at an average of $2067.
Mr King said it was great to see the sale was once again supported by long-standing clients, who knew the product well.
"I think quite a few buyers today may have purchased a few more rams than they first thought they were going to as they were able to get them at values they would not normally be able to," Mr King said.
"The stud's clients also showed they were prepared to start rams at higher values as they know the value of the genetics - and this helped keep prices up.
"While many of the clients are local, there are still a number which travel from as far away as Ravensthorpe, Gnowangerup, Pingelly, Bindoon and down to Mt Barker, which shows the Westerdale sheep are suited to a wide range of areas and not just Boyup Brook.
"It was a great line-up of rams again offered by the stud and there were plenty of positive comments from buyers.
"It is a tough environment at McAlinden to breed sheep in due to the wetter conditions, so the way the Jacksons present their sheep is a credit to them.
"They are breeding rams with quality white wools and wool cut but they have good shapes and are not complicated.
"The higher priced rams, for example, were long-stapled, free-growing with big, square bodies."
Along with presenting extremely well, the rams also had very good wool figures to match.
The team's average May wool figures were 18.2-micron, 3.5 SD, 19.1 CV, 99.7 per cent comfort factor (CF) and 4.2 kilograms greasy fleece weight (GFW) for six months of growth.
With such an even offering of rams, it was always going to be hard to find a standout and that was certainly the case as three rams sold for the sale's $4000 equal top price - two achieved the value in the first 20 lots, while the third was catalogued three quarters of the way through the team.
Hitting the $4000 mark first was an upstanding, long-bodied, rich woolled ram in lot six when it sold to return buyer Clive Drage, Lindsay stud, Mt Barker.
Mr Drage, who has been buying from Westerdale for six years, selected the ram for its wool quality and its ability to suit his environment.
"He has an extremely soft wool which has good nourishment and handle to suit our environment where we can get extremely wet," Mr Drage said.
"He also has a very good frame.
"I really like the Westerdale genetics as they hold their softness in our environment, have good frames and quality wools that can deal with our rainfall as they are bred in similar conditions.
"They have just clicked really well with our flock."
The ram Mr Drage purchased had wool figures of 18.7-micron, 3.0 SD, 16.1 CV, 99.8pc CF and 4.7kg GFW to go with a faecal egg count (FEC) of zero.
The Drages currently have 400 stud ewes and join another 1600 to 1800 ewes to Merino sires.
The next ram to hit the $4000 price tag was a long and deep-bodied ram with excellent wool and carcase traits in lot 20 when it sold to return buyers of 36 years the Browne family, SE & SA Browne, Bindoon.
Dale Browne said the ram, which was a Glenlea Park 881 second cross, would be a new bloodline for the family's flock.
"We were looking for a ram with a bit more constitution, shape and early growth with the uncertainty of live export and this ram had what we wanted," Mr Browne said.
"He stands up big and square with great make and shape but he still has the Westerdale wool quality we want."
The well-made ram had wool figures of 17.5-micron, 3.4 SD, 19.5 CV, 99.9pc CF and 4.2kg GFW as well as a FEC of zero.
The Brownes will use the ram in their nucleus ewe flock of 200 ewes to breed rams for their own use in their main flock of 2000 Merino breeding ewes.
Mr Browne said they have returned to buy Westerdale rams over such a long period because they handled the Bindoon environmental conditions and performed very well for them.
The final ram to make $4000 was catalogued in lot 77 and was purchased by return buyers of close to 20 years the Rhodes family, Rhodes Pastoral Pty Ltd, Boyup Brook, bidding through farm manager Michael Wright.
He said they were chasing dual-purpose type rams that displayed both excellent carcase and wool traits.
"This ram has the constitution for meat production," Mr Wright said.
"He is a big animal, with a big carcase but he also has a very good, soft, white wool with good cutting ability.
"He will be a new bloodline for our nucleus flock along with a couple of other rams of the same breeding we purchased."
The big, upstanding ram had wool figures of 18.2-micron, 3.2 SD, 17.6 CV, 99.7pc CF and 4.6kg GFW to go with a FEC of 25.
Along with purchasing this ram, Rhodes Pastoral purchased another four sires to finish with a team of five at an average of $3220.
It also went to $3500 for lot three, which had wool figures of 17.2-micron, 3.2 SD, 100pc CF and a 4.4kg GFW and $3300 for lot 50 that measured 20.5-micron, 3.1 SD, 99.8pc CF and 4.2kg GFW.
Both these rams were the same breeding as its $4000 purchase.
All three rams will be used in the company's nucleus breeding flock of 1300 ewes where it breeds rams for its own use.
Despite the issues currently facing the sheep industry Mr Wright said they had no plans to change their sheep enterprise.
"We are keeping things the same," Mr Wright said.
"I think the market is going to come back quicker than a lot of people think."
This year, the enterprise is looking to join 15,000 ewes to Poll Merino rams for a June lambing and another 8000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk sires for a May lambing.
Mr Wright said they sell all their Merino wethers as lambs after putting them through a feedlot on the property.
The Merino lambs are weaned in September and then shorn in December/January.
After shearing, the best of the lambs go into the feedlot while the rest are backgrounded on stubbles and lick feeders.
Mr Wright said they aimed to put their wether lambs into the feedlot at about 40kg and have them come out at about 50kg liveweight after six to eight weeks on feed.
"We are aiming for a 22kg dressed carcase and we want to have them all out of the feedlot by April," Mr Wright said.
Other buyers to purchase strongly at the top end averaging more than $2000 for their teams were return buyers DR & SE Earnshwaw, Bowelling, which averaged $2600 across a team of four that included rams at $3400 and $3100, while repeat buyer Marlo Farms, Gnowangerup, averaged $2483 over a team of six that topped at $3500 and the Haddrick family, Toorackie stud, Williams, picked up two rams at $2700 and $2500.
Long-term buyers Martin and Deborah Carroll, Carroll Family Enterprises, Kulikup, were the day's volume buyers, going home with a team of 10 rams.
The Carrolls, who will join 2200 ewes to Poll Merino sires and another 1200 Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams this season, paid a top of $2300 and averaged $1550 across their team.
Ms Carroll said they liked the Westerdale genetics because they performed well in their wet country and because they had stylish, white, bright wools.
Also securing numbers from the offering were regular buyers Bevan and Chad Tuckett, BJ & KA Tuckett, Ravensthorpe, who purchased nine rams to a top of $2300 and an average of $1700, while David Inglis, Bondfield Farm, Boyup Brook, also went home with nine at an average of $1478 and to a high of $2200.
Other buyers to have an influence included Ronald Tuckett, RL & HM Tuckett, Boyup Brook, who averaged $1886 across a team of seven, while Nimbedilling Farms Ltd, Pingelly, purchased eight at a $1363 average.
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