*159 of 181 rams sold to $7250, av $3005
A handful of prospective buyers assembled at the Omeo Recreation Reserve on Tuesday to secure a "stable internet connection" as the Gippsland Merino Ram Sale went online for the first time in the event's 30-year history.
It was there that return top-priced ram buyers Alan and Noeleen Smith, Innisfail, Omeo, would be watching the sale, bidding on a series of rams virtually for the first time in their lives.
The multi-vendor sale, consisting of five studs, offered 181 rams and a clearance rate of 88 per cent.
Kelvin and Jackie Pendergast, Pendarra Merinos and Poll Merinos, Benambra, maintained their stronghold on the sale, selling the top-priced ram for $7250, a year after topping the 2019 sale.
The pandemic forced the sale online via AuctionsPlus, but the results were "surprisingly extraordinary", according to Elders district wool manager Mal Nicholls.
The sale attracted 110 registered bidders and an additional 90 viewers during the 90-minute auction.
Fifty-six bidders were active, 48 of which were successful, with rams bought by clients in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania.
"Out of the 110 bidders logged on, every state was represented except the ACT," AuctionsPlus stud operations Hannah Bird said.
The sale topped last year's results of $5500 for the best ram - bought by the Smiths and sold by Pendarra - as well as the average of $2980.
Twenty-two Merino rams were passed in and three were withdrawn.
The Smiths selected the top 15-month-old horned ram, lot 23, from a photo, and when they saw him in the flesh "that sealed the deal".
In January, the Smiths lost 300 ewes and six rams due to the bushfires which burnt about 70pc of their 1600-hectare property.
"When I saw a picture of its wool on the iPad, I thought it looked nice to me," Mr Smith said.
"We think he will give us a nice crimped, white wool.
"His wool is very stylish and he has a well-structured body."
The top-priced ram was sired by Pendarra 28 and measured 19 micron, 2.9 standard deviation and 15.7 coefficient of variation, with a 99.7 per cent comfort factor.
The Smiths will join the ram to selected young ewes in October, along with five other rams purchased from the stud.
"We had other rams selected just in case we missed out but even prices on those were creeping up too so there weren't many bargains," Mrs Smith said.
Pendarra Merino and Poll Merino stud principals Kelvin and Jackie Pendergast were rapt with the sale.
"It was certainly better than what I was expecting and it was very strong right throughout," Mr Pendergast said.
The stud sold 74 of 76 rams offered to average $2844.
"I thought the top-priced ram was certainly the standout but we did have several rams which made above $6000 and they were particularly hard to split because they all had nice wool," Mr Pendergast said.
He said the region had enjoyed a mild winter but was in need of rain.
"The country is wanting to grow even though we're just starting spring but we just need rain because we had very little towards the end of winter," Mr Pendgergast said.
Bindawarra stud sold 52 rams to a top of $6000 (lot two), to average $3343.
Roundhill stud sold 16 rams to a top of $4500 (lot 54), to average $2783.
Stockton stud sold 16 rams to a top of $5000 (lots 72 and 73), to average $3133.
The Fringe sold four rams to a top of $3250 (lot 78), to average $2000.
Mr Nicholls said he was pleased with the result of the sale considering the uncertainty of the wool market.
"Given we had to operate the sale online and the state of wool the sale exceeded expectations," Mr Nicholls said.
"Our Gippsland rams are performing across the country and they are in high demand."
Volume buyers included Negoura Station, Swifts Creek, which bought six rams to a top of $1750.
Rodwells Euroa bought 20 rams for multiple clients to a top of $3750.
Elders Ballarat agent Elliot Lindley bought five rams to a top of $4750.
Glenayr, Beaufort, bought seven rams to a top of $3500 four times.
Nutrien, Benalla, bought five rams to a top of $4250.
Elders Omeo agent David Hill bought seven rams to a top of $7250.
Darren Hayward, Omeo, bought four rams to a top of $6500.
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