A ram sale on the NSW Central Tablelands has rewritten the record books, as interest in shedding sheep reaches new heights.
- Australian Whites don’t produce wool and therefore don’t need to be shorn
- An ongoing shortage of shearers due to the pandemic is driving interest in the breed
- The top-priced ram at the sale set an Australian record at $165,000
The top-priced ram at the eighth annual Tattykeel Australian White Stud near Oberon sold for $165,000 to Flaxley Australian White Stud in South Australia.
The record ram, named White Gold, set an Australian record across all meat sheep breeds, but there were several other rams at the sale that also would have broken the old record.
Stud rams averaged $40,000 and flock rams averaged just under $15,000.
Auctioneer Miles Pfitzner said he was speechless after the sale, which grossed more than $5.5 million.
“We’re never going to see a sheep sale like it unless [Tattykeel Stud] does it again next year,” he said.
The Australian White breed was developed by Tattykeel almost a decade ago and in recent months strong demand has seen several records broken.
It has been bred to produce hair instead of wool and therefore farmers do not need to pay for shearers.
Stud principal Graham Gilmore said the increased interest was due to people realising the breed was a reset for the meat sheep industry.
Fad or future?
The breed has faced criticism as being a fad, and the recent record prices have been likened to the frenzied interest in farming emus in the 1990s.
Market analyst Angus Brown from Mecardo said the ongoing lack of shearers caused by the pandemic was a driving factor behind recent interest in shedding sheep.
“With not having to shear them, it’s a pretty easy prime lamb operation [farmers] can run,” he said.
Mr Brown said it could be difficult to justify some of the prices being paid for Australian Whites in recent months, but it was hard to tell how the interest in shedding breeds would play out.
“Paying huge money for the ewes probably doesn’t add up if you’re running a commercial operation.”
Mr Gilmore said the breed had faced a lot of criticism over the years but all his customers were happy and kept returning every year.
“It’s growing because it’s working for people and they are making money,” he said.
“This breed has the ability to dominate the meat sheep industry and it’s starting to make its mark.”