A wool-shedding ram has sold for $51,500, breaking the West Australian record for a meat sheep sale.

Key points:

  • Gross sales exceeded $1.7 million and commercial ewe prices were incredibly strong, peaking at $1,040
  • High prices are being paid for shedding sheep nationwide as Australia grapples with a shearer shortage
  • The record prices paid for shedding sheep comes as Australia’s sheep industry grapples with a historic shearer shortage

Hillcroft Farms in Narrogin, 200 kilometres south-east of Perth, hosted its 42nd annual production sale on Tuesday, grossing $1.7 million in sales of the shedding ‘UltraWhite’ sheep breed.

Dawson Bradford has been developing the UltraWhite breed at Hillcroft for 16 years.

“I see it as a sound endorsement of what we’ve achieved,” he said.

Wool-shedding watershed

Unlike wool sheep, wool-shedding breeds do not need to be shorn, significantly easing farmers’ labour costs.

While the top-priced ram has farmers’ attention, Mr Addis believes the state-record-breaking commercial ewe price — $1040 for the top line — is just as significant for the WA commercial sheep industry.

“[It shows] the confidence and the belief of the commercial breeders that the shedding breeds have continuity,” he said.

a flock of sheep stand in a field

The UltraWhites’ genetics capture the hardiness of the Dorper with the Poll Dorset attributes.(

Supplied: Hillcroft Farms

)

Mr Addis expects WA ewe lamb prices will remain strong for up to the next five years.

“We will see commercial prices achieved anywhere from $300-400 potentially for ewe lambs that carry the UltraWhite genetics,” he said.

WA, welcome to the party

UltraWhites aren’t the only wool-shedding breed breaking sale records.

The ‘Australian White’ sheep, developed by Tattykeel stud in NSW, recently took the crown for the highest-ever meat sheep price at $165,000.

“With COVID, we haven’t been able to travel east for two years to see what’s happening with the Australian Whites,” Mr Addis said.

At present, comparisons between the breeds are few and far between.

“Tattykeel started a couple of years after us with four breeds,” Mr Bradford said.

“We started in 2005 with just two breeds — Dorper and Poll Dorsets.

“I think there’s room for everyone in the shedding industry.”

The spate of record prices paid for shedding sheep comes as Australia’s sheep industry grapples with a historic shearer shortage.

“Synthetics are competitive, and the cost of producing wool isn’t getting any cheaper.”

A man stands in a paddock in front of a flock of sheep.

Dawson Bradford began developing the UltraWhite breed in 2005. (

Supplied

)

He maintains that meat sheep are the future of the industry.

Hillcroft sold off its entire flock of Poll Dorset sheep, a wool-producing breed that was the basis for UltraWhites’ genetics, in 2014.

And those genetics are far from settled.

“We’re looking at further developing our breed — we’re very close to releasing a fertility gene which will give us probably up to 50% increase in lambing percentage,” Mr Dawson said.

“We’re also looking at meat-eating quality.”

Shedding sheep craze continues in West Australian record sale
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