LEAHCIM principal Andrew Michael was gobsmacked after the Poll Merino stud's 33rd annual sale on Tuesday at Snowtown and he had good reason to be, with 250 rams averaging $2688 and reaching a peak of $26,000.
A huge buying gallery from across the state competed with a healthy contingent of interstate clients through AuctionsPlus and agents to drive home a full clearance plus a $269 rise in average on 2019.
"I was gobsmacked because of the number of people who attended knowing interstate clients couldn't come," Mr Michael said.
"The passion of our clients shows just how much trust they have in the data we offer them.
The $26,000 high came at lot 39 for a May 2019-drop Poll Merino bought in partnership by Mallee studs Ridgway Merino and Poll Merino, Lameroo, and Gunallo Merino and Poll Merino, Pinnaroo.
The ram was selected for its exceptional wool quality and had ASBVs of 25.2 for yearling clean fleece weight, -0.3 yearling fibre diameter, -1.4 yearling fibre diameter coefficient of variation, -1 breech wrinkle and 11.8 yearling staple length.
It also boasted figures of 8.1 for weaning weight, a 10.4 yearling weight, 0.9 genetic fat, and 0.8 eye muscle depth.
Gunallo principal Brad Schroeder described the ram as "fairly faultless" on its figures.
"It has a great yearling weight, great fleece weight and is positive for fat and eye muscle, a good staple length," he said.
"He's got a bold wool, good structure so he ticks a lot of boxes for us to enhance what we're doing."
Gunallo also secured an August-drop ram for $4400.
Ridgway principal Matt Ridgway said the bold, crimping, nourished wool of the top-priced ram was what caught his eye.
"He also had a good structure, good topline and was backed up by some pretty good figures," he said.
Leahcim's extensive data-gathering program was an obvious assurance for confident commercial and stud buyers.
Studs among the registered buyers included Karawatha Park, Ramsgate, Ridgway, Gunallo, Pepper Well, Lone Gum, Nantoura, Glenville and Calcookara.
The sale's volume buyer was R&C Martin, Noorong Pastoral, Noorong, NSW, which bought 30 rams to $1800 18 times, averaging $1660.
Taking 13 rams to the Yorke Peninsula was RG&CA Collins, Minlaton, averaging $2062 and to a $2600 top, while Black Rock Ag, Orroroo, bought 12 to $3200, averaging $2183.
Paspaley Pastoral, Coolah, NSW, bought 11 rams to $3000, averaging $2200, with Hollywood Pastoral Co, Crookwell, NSW, securing nine to $4400 twice, averaging $3178.
Three buyers each won the bidding battle on seven rams. They were RA&SF McLean, Mutmutbilli, Breadalbane, NSW, to $4200, averaging $2971, Shepwok Downs, Esperance, WA, to $3800, averaging $2771, and Lacharilly Pty Ltd, Clare, to $3000, averaging $2400.
Leahcim wool tested 693 rams in mid-May with the whole flock averaging 17.3 for micron, a 16.4 coefficient of variation, 2.8 standard deviation and 99.7 per cent comfort factor.
Mr Michael said the stud had placed a major focus on follicle density for the past five years and particularly honed in on the feature during the past two.
"We've done major follicle density measurements and this year will be the year we can start to add it all into sheep genetics and actually have a Breeding Value for follicle density," he said.
"The beauty with follicle density from our research, and previous industry research, is that you can increase the value of your wool but there is zero negative correlation to eating quality and meat traits within sheep so it's a win-win.
"We're heading towards an animal that's good for meat production, good for wool production and suits animal welfare standards by having high quality wool on a plain skin and not having to mules."
Nutrien conducted the sale and auctioneer Gordon Wood said the Leahcim lineup were bred to perform in the paddock.
"It was a very even run of sheep from go to woe," he said.
"The biggest thing here is the consistency of data and the level of testing done on these sheep.
"That is predominantly what brings people from all over Australia and overseas to buy at Leahcim - predictability and repeatability is the key to what they're doing here."
Fellow Nutrien auctioneer Richard Miller said it was good to see repeat volume buyers underpin the sale and was a testament to how the rams are performing.
"That average and consistency through the catalogue with the wool market where it is just shows that people have invested their money in these genetics and they're not willing to compromise on the rams just because the wool job's back a bit."
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