The support of southern Merino breeders from South Australia and Victoria helped the Oppenheimer family of Petali Poll Merino stud near Walcha defy seasonal odds and better their average during their on-property sale on Thursday.
While only 38 of 60 Poll Merino rams were cleared, the average of $2282 was up on the 2019 result of $2047.
The family had hoped to clear more rams but it was still a considerable effort given there were 11 registered bidders in attendance along with four online buyers.
The $6000 top price was achieved for the third offering of the catalogue, tag 180666, which was secured by Ryan Kluska, Kiandra Poll Merinos, Bordertown, SA, online through AuctionsPlus.
The draft of Petali rams were above breed average across many of the Merino Select breeding values for worm resistance, early growth, fat and muscle and the top price ram was no different.
He had a yearling worm egg count of -53 compared to the breed average of -8, yearling weight of 18.4 kilograms and yearling fat of 1.2.
Guyra based Milparinka Pastoral Company secured a large order of 11 rams averaging $2818 and topping at $3500 on four occasions with Veolia Environmental Service, Tarrago, not far behind in securing nine rams to average $1583 and top at $4000.
Making the trip up from Dunkeld in Victoria was repeat clients Craig and Woody Oliver who had purchased their order online in recent years.
But in 2020 they wanted to inspect the rams for themselves and walked away with six rams averaging $2250.
The couple run a flock of 10,000 superfine Merinos and join about 4500 ewes.
Enjoying a top spring with plenty of dry feed on hand, the pair returned to support the genetics they had seen success from for at least 10 years.
"We were keen to get up and physically see the sheep but we have got a lot of confidence in the Petali breeding so we were looking for high indexing sheep, good conformation and wool cut really," Mr Oliver said.
"We have sourced all our Merino genetics from here."
Petali Poll Merino rams are sought after for their heavy fleeces, high weaning rates and early growth.
In some key estimated breeding values the rams are up to 10 times above breed average. While Mr Oppenheimer admitted it was extreme in some cases, they wanted to remain regarded for their strength of industry relevant traits.
He noted continued change in their rams for early growth, fat, muscle and fleece weight while worm resistance remained consistent and breach wrinkle was continuing to improve.
"It gives us great hope in the future," Mr Oppenheimer said.
"People are certainly looking for the better sheep and particularly for the traits important going forward."
While they had received 148 millimetres in January alone, compared with 228 millimetres for the whole of 2019, Mr Oppenheimer said the impacts of drought were far from over.
"It's going to be a long haul in recovery from the drought," he said.
"Everyone is talking about the lack of ewes and for those people that have been able to feed through and retain most of their flock, it's a great effort.
"They will reap the reward but, for most people, it's going to take a couple of years to recover."
The Oppenheimers also offered 40 White Suffolk rams with nine selling for $800 each to buyers from Armidale, Walcha and Kentucky.
Mr Oppenheimer said the reduction of ewe numbers in the New England had a significant impact to side crossbred operations.
"It's their (buyers') secondary flock Merino ewes joined to terminals that have really suffered during the drought," he said.
"People have dropped it off, it's been a discretionary enterprise. Something has to give."
The sale was conducted by Landmark Boulton's Walcha and Elders Walcha with Paul Dooley as guest auctioneer.