WITH a struggling wool market and near on no Eastern States competition, many would have thought this year's Stud Merino Ram Sale at the WA Sheep Expo & Ram Sale at Katanning recently may have struggled, but that certainly wasn't the case.
Prices topped at $33,000 in the sale for a young East Mundalla Poll Merino ram, which is the highest price for a ram sold at auction in Australia so far this season, while another six rams sold for more than $10,000.
There was also a significant rise in the average, which jumped $568 when compared to last year's sale when exactly the same number of rams were sold.
All up in the sale 11 vendors presented 20 rams for sale under the Elders and Nutrien Livestock banners and 14 were sold under the hammer for an average of $9800.
In comparison, in last year's sale 14 rams sold from 18 offered at an average of $9232.
Elders stud stock manager Tim Spicer said it was a very pleasing result given the position of the wool market and the reduced Eastern States' interest.
"It was an excellent line-up of rams and the quality was there right through the catalogue and it was pleasing to see nearly 40 registered buyers for the sale," Mr Spicer said.
"The top rams received plenty of support and good competition in the main from WA buyers with only a semen share sold to the east.
"Unfortunately however on occasions there were numerous buyers on the same ram while other rams didn't quite have the same buyer interest.
"It was good to see that despite issues in the wool market breeders were still prepared to invest in new sires for their breeding programs going forward."
Nutrien Livestock Breeding representative Mitchell Crosby was equally as pleased with the sale result.
"It was a really pleasing sale with solid prices and a good clearance," Mr Crosby said.
"Throughout the sale stud breeders and top end commercial producers showed they were prepared to pay good money for genetics to reinvest in their breeding programs despite the downturn in the wool market, as they can still see the value in maintaining their flocks.
"Overall it was a very good line-up of rams with a number of exceptional sires that will have a strong influence on the industry going forward."
When it came to the sale's $33,000 top price it was achieved towards the back end of the sale when Elders auctioneer Preston Clarke stood over an upstanding East Mundalla Poll sire, which was offered jointly through Elders and Nutrien Livestock.
Mr Clarke took an opening bid of $20,000 on the stylish woolled ram which also showed good bone and structure and the bidding war kicked off from there.
Eventually Elders stud stock representative Nathan King prevailed as the winning bidder at $33,000, representing a syndicate of buyers.
When called upon he nominated first-time East Mundalla buyers Phil and Robyn Jones, Belka Valley stud, Bruce Rock, as the buyers who will take possession of the ram, with semen shares going to the Mullan family's Eastville Park stud, Wickepin and the Greenfields stud, Hallett, South Australia.
Mr Jones said they were really impressed by the ram in terms of its structure, size and wool characteristics.
"He has outstanding conformation, great bone, a lovely topline and he is also really good on his feet," Mr Jones said.
"We were also impressed by his beautiful, bold, medium wool."
Mr Jones said the ram would be the first East Mundalla sire they have used in the stud and they would look at using him both in an AI program and naturally over ewes from their Claypans blood family.
The Mullan family, which has previously purchased genetics from East Mundalla, secured a semen share in the ram and Grantly Mullan said they believed the ram, which will be a new bloodline, would complement their stud.
"This ram has tremendous bone, a big presence and quality rich medium wool, traits we are always looking for in new stud sires," Mr Mullan said.
The ET-bred 119 kilogram ram is by East Mundalla Masterbuild 53 and out of East Mundalla Imperial 111-39.
On the wool front it has current test figures of 21.5 micron, 3.4 SD, 15.7 CV and 99.1 per cent comfort factor.
Losing bidder on the top-priced ram was Nutrien Livestock Breeding representative Mitchell Crosby who was carrying a buying order for the St Quentin stud, Nyabing.
The East Mundalla stud also offered a two-tooth March shorn Merino ram in the sale but it failed to make reserve.
After topping last year's sale by a significant margin the Edmonds family's Rhamily stud, Calingiri, this year had the honour of leading off the auction with a team of three March shorn Poll Merino rams.
As soon as Nutrien Livestock auctioneer Mark Warren stepped over the Rhamily rams the buyers gathered and showed their support of the team.
Bidding on the stud's team leader started at $4000 but it wasn't long before a couple of interested parties kicked into gear and the price quickly rose.
In the end it was brothers Nigel and Damien Morrison, San-Mateo stud, Brookton, with the support of their classer Nathan King, Elders stud stock, that secured the long-bodied, upstanding ram with a final bid of $9200.
The stylish woolled ram was sold with current wool figures of 20.6 micron, 2.9 SD, 14.1 CV and 99.9 per cent comfort factor.
After securing the lead Rhamily ram the Morrison brothers set their sights on the Rhamily sire in pen two, which carried a soft, bright, white, free growing wool and they secured it at $6000.
This ram tested at 20.1 micron, 3.2 SD, 15.9 CV and 99.7pc CF.
Mr King said the Morrisons had used semen from a Rhamily sire in the past and it had worked well and they saw these two rams, which were brothers, as an opportunity to get two sires of the same breeding to use in the paddock.
"They are very similar rams, both are structurally very good and have good safe wools," Mr King said.
Nigel Morrison said the two rams would complement their breeding program well and when it came to selecting the sires they were chasing structure and size.
"The two rams have good body size and barrels," Mr Morrison said.
The third ram in the Rhamily team which measured 20.7 micron, 3.5 SD and 99.9pc CF in the wool was purchased by return buyers the King family, King Farming Pty Ltd, Calingiri, for $5600.
The House family's Barloo stud, Gnowangerup, offered up two rams and sold both of them under the hammer through Elders at an average of $11,750.
Taking top honours in the Barloo team at $13,000 was the stud's second sire - a 131kg son of Barloo Impact 414.
Bidding started at $8000 on the two-tooth, March shorn sire which showed top production traits and in the end it was return buyers the Ledwith family, Kolindale stud, Dudinin, which prevailed with the winning bid at $13,000.
Matthew Ledwith said they had used the Impact bloodline before in the stud with success, so were looking forward to seeing what this ram could do.
"He is an upstanding ram with a big, pure muzzle and a good wide horn-set," Mr Ledwith said.
"In terms of his wool it is white and bright with a bold crimp and he is a heavy cutter.
"We also liked that he is in the top 1pc of Barloo rams for wool growth."
In the wool the ram measured 22.8 micron, 3.7 SD, 16.1 CV and 96.1pc CF.
The lead Barloo ram also cracked the five figure mark when it sold at $10,500 to first time Barloo buyers the Norrish family, Angenup stud, Kojonup.
Gavin Norrish said they particularly liked the genetic background of the sire which goes back to Charinga Gilbert.
"He is a good well-grown, structurally very correct ram with a good high rainfall wool," Mr Norrish said.
The 129kg strong wool, two-tooth, March shorn ram, measured 21.3 micron, 3.2 SD, 15.3 CV and 98.6pc CF in the wool and was no stranger to the limelight as it was sashed the reserve grand champion March shorn ram of the show.
The King family's Rangeview stud, Darkan, was next in the selling order and had the largest offering in the sale - four August shorn rams, which were all offered through Elders.
By the end of the Rangeview run the stud had sold one, which was the champion August shorn superfine wool Poll Merino ram, under the hammer for $3000 to return buyers the Smith family, BR & BJ Smith, Wannamal.
The Smiths, who picked the ram out at the Narrogin Long Wool Day, left their buying order with Dan King, Calingiri, who said they liked the ram for its nice, white, bright, stylish wool and good body size.
The ram, which is a son of Rangeview 645, has current wool figures of 20.3 micron, 3.0 SD, 14.8 CV and 99.5pc CF.
The Rangeview clearance was further improved post sale when it sold its champion August shorn fine wool Merino ram for $2500 to Noonan Bros, Kojonup.
The Seymour Park stud, Highbury, was next in the sale line-up with a single two-tooth, March shorn Poll Merino sire offered through Elders.
Bidding opened at $10,000 and after a few quick bids the long, deep, well-balanced ram was knocked down at $11,200 to return buyer Bill Cowan, Crichton Vale stud, Narembeen, who was buying with assistance of classer Nathan King, Elders stud stock.
Mr Cowan said they have used a number of Seymour Park rams in the stud over the past few years and they have worked well and their clients have been happy with their progeny.
"This ram will be a different bloodline to what we have had in the past, so it will be interesting to see what he throws," Mr Cowan said.
"He has a superb, long-stapled wool, good stretch and length of body plus a beautiful sirey head."
The ram, which is by Pyramid Poll 652, was sold with current wool figures of 20.7 micron, 3.5 SD, 15.9 CV and 99.3pc CF.
The Bolt family's Claypans stud, Corrigin, offered two rams under the Elders hammer and both sold at $5000.
The stud's lead ram, which was by Claypans 302, was purchased by return buyer the Hewett family, Chas Hewett & Co, Corrigin, with Nutrien Livestock stud and commercial sheep manager Tom Bowen bidding on the family's behalf.
The upstanding ram has wool figures of 20.4 micron, 3.4 SD, 16.7 CV and 99.6pc CF.
John Hewett, who has been a long-time Claypans client of about 25 years said the ram would be used over 80 of 140 nucleus ewes with cover to help breed the 20 flock rams retained annually for the family's 3200 commercial ewes.
Mr Hewett said his new Claypans sire 'looked the goods.'
"We try and pick the top rams to breed from, he is an early maturing sheep with good wool cut," he said.
"We are confident in the Claypans product and their breeding."
The second Claypans ram sold to long-time client Graeme Baldwin, GLJ & A Baldwin, Jerramungup.
Mr Baldwin said he had been a Claypans client since 1979 and over the years built a strong relationship with the Bolt family.
"They are a genuine family with a genuine product, what you see is what you get and I'm confident in their breeding," he said.
"The ram has good constitution with wool cut and staple length and is from a natural mating to their AI sire Claypans 3 that has bred on well."
Mr Baldwin said the ram would be used in their nucleus breeding program to produce flock rams for their commercial Merino flock.
The son of Claypans 3 tested at 20.7 micron, 3.2 SD, 15.5 CV and 99.7pc CF.
The Darijon stud, Narrogin, this year offered its first Poll Merino ram in the sale - an August shorn fine wool sire and it found a new home at Kojonup when it sold at $10,200 through Nutrien Livestock to the Jackson family, Overton Poll Merino stud, Kojonup.
The deep, big barrelled sire has current wool tests of 20.7 micron, 3.4 SD, 16.4 CV and 99.6pc CF to go with a bodyweight of 158kg.
Overton co-principal Neil Jackson said the ram would be used in their newly registered Poll Merino stud flock.
"We were chasing good early growth and we believe this ram has it plus top wool characteristics," Mr Jackson said.
"He is a big framed, well-made, well-built ram with a very good fine/medium wool."
The Tammin-based Kamballie stud offered a single August shorn Poll Merino ram in the catalogue under the Elders and Nutrien Livestock banners.
After receiving an opening bid of $8000 the selling team quickly saw the price rise to more than $10,000 before a successful final bid of $10,500 was put in by return buyers, the Nicholls family, BW & CM Nicholls, Corrigin.
The Nicholls family has been buying top rams from the Kamballie on-property sale for the past six years to produce 20 flock rams annually for its 2300 commercial Merino ewe enterprise.
Callum Nicholls said they have been breeding their own rams for about 15 years and would select 80 ewes from their nucleus flock of 400 ewes to join to their new Kamballie sire.
"The Kamballie ram stands well, with good body and crimpy wool," Mr Nicholls said.
"We have a good relationship with the Mackin family and have always got great service."
The long, deep, well-covered sire is an ET-bred son of Charinga Harry and Kamballie K102.
It has wool figures of 20.6 micron, 2.7 SD, 13.1 CV and 99.9pc CF.
The Wise family, Wililoo stud, Woodanilling, was the second last stud to sell in the sale and its offering comprised of a stylish, well-nourished wool, March shorn Poll Merino sire, which was sold through Elders.
When bidding finished at $5000 the two-tooth ram was headed to a new home at the Rintoul family's Auburn Valley stud, Williams.
The ram, which is by a Greenfields sire purchased by the Wililoo stud in partnership with two other WA studs at the 2017 Adelaide Stud Merino ram sale, will be a new bloodline for Auburn Valley.
Auburn Valley principals Peter and Jeffrey Rintoul said they believed the ram was very correct and had few faults.
"He has a pure, soft muzzle, a good backend and is well-covered in a stylish, white, crimpy wool," they said.
The ram weighed in at 125kg with wool figures of 19.4 micron, 2.8 SD, 14.4 CV and 99.8pc CF.
The Patterson family, Woolkabin stud, Woodanilling, rounded out the sale selling a March shorn Merino sire through Elders.
The ram, which was sashed the champion March shorn medium wool Merino ram, attracted plenty of interest, before being knocked down at $10,000 to Elders stud stock representative Kevin Broad, who was bidding on behalf of the Smith family, Wongamine Grazing Co, Northam.
Glenn Smith said it was the second sire they had purchased from Woolkabin after buying the top-priced Merino ram at its on-property sale last year.
He said the ram would go over a selection of ewes from the operation's nucleus flock to breed rams for their commercial ewe flock.
"The lambs on the ground by the Woolkabin ram we purchased last year look really good," Mr Smith said.
"We first saw this ram at the Narrogin Long Wool day a couple of weeks ago, we liked his constitution, he is strong in the bone with a stylish medium wool."
The free-growing, white woolled AI-bred ram by Wanganella 17-470 was sold with wool test results of 21.1 micron, 3.3 SD, 15.9 CV and 99.1pc CF.