The saying 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' certainly held true for the Heinrich family at their annual Ella Matta three-breed ram sale at Parndana on Thursday last week.
Despite the many challenges they have endured over the last few years and the current state of the sheep industry, they presented an outstanding offering of 348 White Suffolk, Maternal Composite and Poll Merino rams for auction, selling 278 for a $1204 average, topping at $5400.
There were 62 successful buyers, including 15 from the mainland, with rams going to four states.
The sale commenced with the large offering of 217 White Suffolk rams.
With an 89 per cent clearance, 193 sold at auction to an overall sale top of $5400 and averaged $1242.
While this was back substantially on last year's extraordinary result, for the lateness of this sale in the ram selling calendar, plus the hesitancy within the industry at present, it was very much in line with other sale trends and most pre-sale expectations.
The draft opened with strong bidding on the lot 1 ram, Ella Matta 220205, a long and powerful son of their high growth and extreme-muscled home-bred sire, EM210270, before being knocked down to local Dale Paxton for $4800.
The next ram in the ring (EM 220639) was rated extremely highly by several pundits pre-sale, with the final competition mainly coming from two on-line bidders.
Rob McCartney, Yentrac Farms, Tatura, Vic, won the duel for this long-bodied, well-balanced and beautifully structured son of Felix 191175, with a successful $4200 bid.
It was not until lot 11 that the lot 1 price was exceeded, when Lindsay Price, Paskeville, SA won another AuctionsPlus bidding duel with a $5400 bid for Ella Matta 220579.
This July-drop twin son of their highest performing and home-bred sire, EM 200339, had highlighted data across the board, including top 1pc nationally for eye muscle, and LEQ and TCP indices.
Interstate purchasing extended to JDR & LJ Peddie, Hagley, Tasmania with three rams to $3000; Sillwood Pastoral, Carrick, Tas with five rams to $1600; Cleeland Industries P/L, Surf Beach, Vic with one at $1800; T & JC Trevethan Family Trust, Corowa, NSW, with five rams to $1600, and Gary Hill, Halls Gap, Vic with one at $2800.
Of the mainland SA buyers, Sammy McIntyre, Parawa, was back again after discovering the merits of Ella Matta stock last year, purchasing five select rams from $1000 to $1600. However, this was surpassed by repeat Keith buyers, Darren and April Sanders and family. They purchased 10 rams for their Wyama Gap property, bidding to $2000 and averaging $1410.
"We were introduced to Ella Matta genetics back in 2017 by KI local and Ella Matta client Tim Buck, and have been coming ever since," Mr Sanders said.
"Their rams are true to type and perform to their outstanding figures, making them excellent value, but especially so this year.
"The depth of quality to the very end of the catalogue is just exceptional, plus their lamb pies for lunch are worth the trip as well!"
However, it was the strength of local KI producers that dominated the volume buying list. Lachie Bell, Bella Vista, was the biggest volume buyer with 17 rams at a $959 average.
Andy Gilfillan was not far behind, picking up 14 top rams from $900 to $1400 and averaging $1157.
Sugars Hillview selected 13 at a $946 average.
Bill Buttrose with nine at a $1267 average; Tom Wurst with eight at a $988 average; Nathan Bell, Spring Hills KI P/L with eight at a $975 average; and the Trethewey family, Circle T Holdings, with eight at a $938 average were other prominent local buyers.
The 59 Composite Maternal rams and 16 Maternal Merino infused rams followed on from the big White Suffolk draft, with 37 finding new homes at auction, selling to a top of $2100 and averaging $943.
Lucas Boyle bid the $2100 top for the lot 7 ram, EM 220279Tw, a ram ranked in the top 10pc nationally for eye muscle EBV and MCP index. He then added lot 10 at $1600.
Rick and Annie Morris paid the $1200 top for the Merino infused composite, EM220442, along with two others at $700 each.
It was a mainland buying account operating on Auctions Plus that was the volume buyer of maternal Composites. Thomas Elder Consulting purchased 10 rams from $900 to $1300 at a $1070 average for their Lucindale-based sheep enterprise.
Repeat buyers Steve Childs with four at a $850 average; Kerryn Muntz with five at a $800 average, and Paul Bott, Bott Farming, three at a $867 average also added good support. Andy Gilfillan and the Trethewey family also added three each.
The final run of the day was the excellent draft of 56 Poll Merino rams with another 10 available by mini auction. With a record $20,000 top price, last year's average was pushed up to $3232, which was $232 higher than this year's top; again not a reflection on quality but rather on the subdued industry demand at present.
46 of the 56 main auction rams offered sold for a $1276 average, while two more sold from the 10 mini-auction rams also cleared at $700 each.
It was Bill Walker, Classings Ltd, who bid this year's $3000 top for the impressive lot 3 ram, EM 220271 Twin, a June-drop son of Leahcim 202881.
He purchased for the Smith family's Calcookara stud at Cowell.
Besides its impressive phenotype, it also ranked in the top 10pc nationally for yearling weight, top 20pc for yearling fibre diameter and clean fleece weight; culminating in top 10pc indices for fine wool, sustainable high rainfall and dual purpose plus; giving a combination of excellent wool and carcase attributes.
Bill Walker also added lot 16, EM 220275 by Wallaloo Park 172032 at $2000, for the Woolford family's Karawatha Park stud at Kimba, plus one for local clients Pioneer Bend.
Long-term supporters and near neighbours, Simon and Madelyn Kelly, Mine Creek Partners, provided the dominant support for the Ella Matta Poll Merino program. Buying through Elders, they purchased 20 rams, paying from $1000 to $1400 at a $1070 average.
Higgs Farming purchased six Poll Merinos to $1500 and at a $1317 average to also provide solid support, while Tom and Steph Wurst added three at $1400 each to their eight earlier White Suffolk purchases, and Mitch and Ros Willson, Willson River Trading, added four at a $1500 average to the seven White Suffolks they purchased.
In summarizing the result, Andrew said, "A high volume sold considering the current industry and uncertainty and issues we've had to deal with over the last couple of years. Considering we were missing two big volume buyers in particular, we are very happy with the result and are extremely grateful for the support we received."
"We knew the Composites would be a tough gig, but rather than pull numbers back, we honoured our initial sale cataloguing to give those buyers who came full selection options."
Elders auctioneer Tony Wetherall summed up the result by saying, "It was a very solid sale result in the circumstances.
"The clearance was good, the AuctionsPlus support added to the competition significantly with sales to four states endorsing the quality and reputation of the Ella Matta genetics and how well they breed.
"The data behind their sheep in all drafts is exceptional and goes a long way towards explaining the loyalty and support they got from their clients."
Nutrien auctioneer, Gordon Wood added, "Ella Matta defied the odds, and to get a near 90pc clearance in the White Suffolks in a late Spring sale is a great result.
"The overall sale offered exceptional value for stud and commercial buyers alike, and we look forward to both a favourable season ahead and their offering in 2024."
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