AUSTRALIAN White sheep set sale records in New South Wales this week as founding flock Tattykeel sold stud rams to $53,000 and ewes to $13,000 to gross $1.766 million for 226 sheep.
Auctioneer Miles Pfitzner sold the top-priced stud ram, lot 77 Tattykeel 190084, to the Ardene AW Stud at Mt Torrens in South Australia on Wednesday, setting a new breed record.
Tattykeel principal Graham Gilmore said the $53,000 price was almost double the stud’s previous highest price for a stud ram of $28,000.
The 26 stud rams offered averaged $22,654, the second highest averaging sale for stud sheep or cattle ever in Australia, bettered only by the NCC Brahman sale in 2017 in which 76 bulls averaged $26,915, he said.
The 125 flock rams offered sold to $9000 and averaged $5922. The 75 stud ewes offered sold to $13,000, for lot 2 Tattykeel 190134, again to the Ardene AW Stud, and the average was $5833. Sale agents for the 7th annual Tattykeel AW sale were Nutrien and QPL Rural at Temora and it was also interfaced with AuctionsPlus.
Riding the wave of strong interest in his wool-less hair breed with its distinctive meat qualities, Mr Gilmore said there was a massive move toward easy case sheep.
“It’s not so much against wool, it’s about eating quality and easy care sheep.
“A true easy care sheep doesn’t have wool,” he said.
“You can run them like cattle, there is no work involved in them.”
But Mr Gilmore said the breed’s development was “not just a Tattykeel thing, this is an Australia-wide thing.”
“And it’s not just built around that we’ve got no wool, we are built around eating quality.”
He said the auction results was “incredible”, with an overall sale average of $7814, and Mr Gilmore believed it was the biggest grossing stud sheep sale “ever in Australia”.
Not enough Australian White sheep to meet demand
The 240 registered bidders at the sale came from throughout Australia, Mr Gilmore said, with some American interests buying rams through a Western Australian syndicate for semen collection and export. A Dubai importer of AW lamb also bought two rams.
But outside the stud sheep competition, Mr Gilmore said most buyers at the sale were commercial producers. Based on the level of interest in the breed and the sale’s strength, he said there was not enough AW sheep to meet current demand.
“There is not enough ewes, there’s not enough rams.”
This had been exacerbated by some big AW flocks being sold during the drought while recent good seasonal conditions had lifted sheep demand nationally.
“It’s a perfect storm, you’ve got green feed, you’ve got people chasing a particular breed and a lack of numbers in that breed due to the drought and the fact that it is in its early stages.”
The last of the Merinos have gone …
Boree Creek sheep producers Russell and Ginny Jones bought seven flock rams for up to $6000 at the sale, after selling his Merino ewe flock to buy into Australian Whites. They ran up to 2000 Merino ewes, and now run 600 AW breeding ewes and 300 ewe lambs.
“The last of the Merinos went a week ago.
“There is less labour with the Aussie Whites, no shearing, no crutching – they’re just care free,” he said.
One of the main reasons for the move was not having to dip the Aussie Whites for lice.
“We were dipping the Merinos two or three times a year.”
He said the Australian Whites also had a good temperament. Two of Jones farms don’t have shearing sheds and they had to truck Merinos 50kms to a wool shed.
“Now we just mark lambs and bring lambs home.”
In June this year, the highest price paid for commercial ewes with lambs was $516 for Australian White ewes-lamb units on AuctionsPlus, and Mr Jones said when he sold his April drop Merino ewe lambs online for $221 last month, similar age AW ewes at Marrar NSW made $420.
“The sale on Wednesday was a sign of the times, I think people are just finding out they are easy care sheep that eat well.”
Bidders bid up and ate well
QPL Rural agents Craig Pellow said the sale average was more than double his prior estimates.
“I’ve come away from there with orders for 30 rams not filled yet.
“We could had had an extra 50 rams there, sold them and it wouldn’t have done anything to the average.”
Mr Pellow said people at the sale bid and ate well, consuming 16 easy carve legs, 16 rolled shoulders, 5kgs of backstraps and 5kgs of snags.
“I can send you a picture of what is left in the tray mate and it wouldn’t feed a fox terrier.
“This is the best meat in the world.”
He said the demand for the sheep is being driven by the lack of need for fly and lice treatments, and no crutching or shearing. AW flock owners were also able to get three lambs in two years, with producers marking over 200pc of lambs “year-in year-out”.
“I have clients in their 70s that are successfully running these sheep that could not run a Merino operation because they are not capable of shearing or bung-holing anymore.
Although AW sellers are not getting paid for their skins, Mr Pellow said wool prices are “ordinary” and those with composite sheep are having to pay money, plus the wool returns, to cover their shearing costs.
No ASBVs needed here …..
Tattykeel has conducted its own research on Australian White meat — with independent researchers and restaurants — without any recourse to the genetic tools, systems and platforms the Australian sheep research establishment is using to develop eating quality traits in other breeds.
Meat from Australian White sheep has been compared to the high eating quality and intra-muscular fat content Wagyu beef and research has shown it to have a lower minimum melting point than the meat of other British-based sheep breeds and composites. Intra-muscular fat and fat melting point are indicators of the content of desirable long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and eating quality.
“There’s a few things on this – no figures, no ASBVs (Australian Sheep Breeding Values).
“I’m calling the ASBVs out, it’s horseshit,” Mr Gilmore said.
“We don’t need them, we’ve got a heritable product that eats well, the chefs are raving about its eating quality.
“We’ve got no eating quality ASBVs.”
Mr Gilmore believes breeding sheep on ASBVs is a “con job.”
“It’s alright to have some figures, but not figures that you put in yourself.
“My figures are meaningful, I’ve got chefs all over the world raving about this, with no eating quality ASBVs, just actuals,” he said.
“I have actual eating quality, that they eat it and say ‘this is incredible’.”
Mr Gilmore said Australian White lamb has just been launched under the brand name Margra at the Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai this week and the meat was also being supplied to top restaurants in Sydney.
“They’re raving about this on eating quality and our (Sheep) CRC has not even acknowledged it.
“I’ve had not any help, but we don’t need to do all their testing for eating quality.”