IT'S set to be a tough year for Merino ram sales, and while the wool market plays a role in the success of multi-vendor and on-property sales, the spread of COVID-19 is having a bigger impact.
Merino studs have done their best to adapt to online selling, but when much of sale day is spent touching and inspecting wool, it's hard for buyers to adapt and purchase rams sight unseen, according to stud stock agent Rick Power, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Goulburn.
The second wave of COVID-19 has also resulted in a number of field days, such as South West Slopes Field Day, Marnoo Field Day and the Bathurst Merino Association Ram Expo being cancelled, along with major shows like the Australian Sheep and Wool Show.
"Whenever there's a downturn in the wool market rams sales are usually back a bit on average and probably clearance as well, but this year there's less competition at sales due to the lack of interstate buyers from Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia," Mr Power said.
If we didn't have issues with COVID-19 it would probably be a reasonable year for Merino sales, even with the drop in the wool market.
"Studs are adapting, slowly, but with Merinos, buyers like to feel the muzzle, they like to feel the wool, and you can't do that with a computer.
"Studs are selling online to assist interstate clients as best as possible and there's a lot more interaction between studmasters, the agent, and buyers with presale videos and description of lots.
"Studs are certainly not going to get new business online, and we won't have the highs of the past couple of years, but we've got a season and that's a start.
"If we didn't have issues with COVID-19 it would probably be a reasonable year for Merino sales, even with the drop in the wool market."
One positive element in play this year is increased demand from the Riverina.
"The Riverina is well stocked again with Merinos from people buying ewes in from Western Australia and I feel like there might be some new business from people who are starting to breed again," Mr Power said.
"A lot of producers secured ewes early with good winter feed and they're putting them on crop to get weights up.
"There hasn't been demand from that area for a long time.
"It also means there won't be a big supply of surplus ewes in the spring, which is driven by the season and bad lambings, and producers wanting to hold on to whatever they've got."