Waidale Rams

September 2016

Ike Williams is a specialist ram breeder who sells his rams through an online auction

Specialist ram breeder Ike Williams offers stud rams of four breeds, Romneys, Southdowns, Lincolns and South Suffolks, through an innovative Helmsman auction in late November, preceded by on-line videos of the approximately 180 rams on offer. That enables farmers to view rams and their data, bid and buy without travelling to South Canterbury.

Ike Williams was born into sheep breeding as both his late father Bill and his mother Yvonne were sheep breeders, first at Keneperu Sound, then Blenheim and then South Canterbury. He was also a practising lawyer and has a degree in commerce and law. Ike returned to the family farm at Totara Valley, near Pleasant Point, in 2002 upon the death of his father and then brother. The Waidale Romney stud was founded in 1965 and has been joined by Whydid Lincolns and Waidale Southdowns and South Suffolks. Romneys are dual-pupose (meat and wool) and the most popular breed in NZ; Southdowns and South Suffolks are meat breeds that Waidale sells as terminal sires; the Lincolns are dual-purpose, mainly used for cross-breeding to produce increased wool weights.

Waidale has one of the most comprehensive websites ever published by a livestock breeder, here or overseas (www.waidalerams.co.nz). Ike Williams has a lengthy explanation of his sheep breeding philosophy, objectives and approach on the website. That is a complex subject normally taking years of conversations between breeder and prospective buyer for a useful, workable understanding. But that is only one section among 12 on the website; on the others he gives personal history, farm and stud history, the Helmsman system, rams for sale, semen for sale, management practises, photographs and newsletters. However, video of the sale rams is loaded onto the Agonline website of PGG Wrightson, livestock agent. Ike also has a page headed “marketing gimmicks” in which he rubbishes some claims made by breeders that are factually wrong or woolly headed – his legal training, no doubt.

Waidale is the only ram breeder in NZ that combines a Helmsman auction in conjunction with online presentation and interactivity, using uploaded videos of sale rams and not just photographs. Therefore intending buyers can bid on rams by attending the sale or staying at home. Bids can be placed before the sale, on-site on the day or online during the auction process. That enables farmers to inspect rams prior to the sale if they are not going to be available on the day, or buyers from far away districts using the video and breeding details to evaluate and place bids. These can be autobids up to a certain limit (as on Trade Me).

The Helmsman auction on the day works like this: All rams on the market simultaneously; the “upset price” is set by Ike Williams ($600 in past years) and the first bid must be $650; multiples of $50 accepted thereafter, no limit on the size of a bid; all bids on all rams with buyer’s number are displayed on a board at the sale and through Agonline website; buyers can bid on a number of rams at once and can see when they have been outbid; the auction runs for a set time, but each fresh bid on a ram extends time by 2 minutes to enable responding bids; farmers are under no pressure to bid and may be still alive with their second or third-favoured rams when their first choice has been sold, rather than be unable to go back, as in a conventional auction. The opportunity is there to take home a ram you want, irrespective of lot order.

Ike Williams says his method is a lot of extra work, because rams have to be ready three or four weeks before the sale for videoing, and uploading video clips really takes time and data, but actual videoing of rams is quicker than posing them for still shots and gives a much better indication of true conformation.

Ike Williams and Waidale get the majority of annual income from sale of rams – 180 offered for an average price achieved in recent years over $800. Other income from wool and cull lambs is minor in comparison. Romney rams tends to get higher prices than other three breeds. Ike has 400 clients and sheep farmers on his database and he sends out opinionated newsletters that get good feedback. He also advertises in print media with eye-catching adverts (like printing them upside down). Up to 80 or 90 people attend the annual sale.

In 2016, Waidale Rams will hold their sale on Wednesday 23 November at 3.00pm.