Middelburg ram sets price record

Middelburg farmer Henning Vorster’s merino ram, 5085 ISA, broke the auction price record when it sold for R110 000 in Bloemfontein. From left are Le Roux Nel of BKB Standerton, buyer Kobus De Jager, auctioneer Gert Jordaan, Henning Vorster and his wife Marietjie.
Picture: Supplied

A Middelburg farmer has no need to count sheep during sleepless nights after his prize ram smashed its way through the record books.

Careful selection and intensive line breeding, along with 60 years of experience, were on display when Henning Vorster’s pride and joy went on auction last week, breaking the national mutton merino record price in the process.

The auctioneer’s gavel was already raised in the air, waiting to drop and close the bidding, when a last-second bid sent Bloubosfarm’s prized ram into the SA Mutton Merino Society’s record books at their annual auction in Bloemfontein.

The auction saw 82 lots being sold, with the mutton merino rams’ average price reaching R15 817.

But Vorster’s specimen, coded as 5085 ISA, exceeded all expectations and sold for R110 000 to Kobus de Jager of Amersfoort in Mpumalanga.

A week after the auction, Vorster, 66, still has trouble believing his luck.

“I was hoping my ram would sell for about R50 000, but when the bidding went up to R90 000 it felt like I was floating. The bids kept rising and in the back of my mind I started visualising the previous record of R101 000,” he said.

Vorster could not help but feel slightly disappointed when the bidding died down just short of the record, but his disappointment quickly turned to disbelief when a last second bid broke the R100 000 mark, and the price climbed to R110 000.

“I am still not sure what to make of it. My head is still in the clouds.”

Ram 5085 ISA came from a long line of strong rams and through selective pairings with only the finest-quality ewes Vorster was able to breed this exceptional specimen.

But the drought took its toll, as he spent more than R350 000 on dry feed and pellets on his 1 000ha farm this past year.

Ultimately it was all worth it for what he has achieved. In previous years his sheep received the top bids for their meat and wool quality and he is also the proud recipient of a life-time achiever award for his contributions to the mutton merino industry over the last 60 years.

“My father gave me my first sheep when I was just one year old. Not only did I grow up in this industry, but it is in my blood. I don’t know if there is anyone that can match my love and passion for this industry and the merino species.”

While this year’s auction attracted a number of prime specimens, SA Mutton Merino Society president Manie Lombard said Vorster’s ram really stood out among the herd.

“No one ever expects that a record will be broken,” he said.

“And considering the current background of drought and a struggling economy, we were really surprised when Vorster’s ram sold for a record price.

“That being said, it really was one of the finest rams we have ever had on auction. I can only imagine what price it could have reached if economic conditions were better.”

Even though his record ram is on its way to Mpumalanga, Vorster cannot wait for next year’s auction.

“I still have a couple of young rams that are ready to show the competition a thing or two,” he said with a laugh.

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