HAYDEN, Delma and Devin Sprigg bowed out of the Merino industry on a strong note when fellow stud breeders paid a $5500 top price for a young sire at the Strathglen West dispersal at Kojonup on Friday.
Elders auctioneer Dennis Roberts said it was a sad day when the industry farewelled one of its stalwarts.
But the decision to retire had come after recent years of uncertain health.
The sale attracted commercial breeders, clients and stud breeders from the high rainfall area and overwhelmingly it was the fine wool background of Merryville breeding they were chasing.
The top price came near the end of the sale when four 2003 drop rams that had been blade shorn and regulation tagged for shed preparation went under the hammer.
After taking the first bid at $2000, three separate parties were active in the bidding to the $5000-mark.
But Don Jackson, Sunny Valley stud, Kojonup, stayed with it to the end defeating a partnership of Andrew Higham, Barooga stud, and Phil Earnshaw, Williams.
Mr Jackson said his son Neil had inspected the ram at tagging time and was immediately interested.
He said it was a purpose sheep for which they would select a well-nourished line of ewes.
They also planned to continue its shed preparation and said Bendigo 2005 was on the cards.
The high esteem in which they held the sheep was one of the sale highlights for Mr Sprigg who was pleased to see the ram that he regarded as the best wool sheep he'd bred going to one of WA's recognised wool studs.
Mr Earnshaw had earlier in the day set the $165 top price for stud ewes.
The pen comprised seven regulation shorn and tagged 1.5 year old ewes that gave buyers the option of continuing preparation for showing in 2005.
He said although he wasn't a Strathglen West client, he bred his own rams for a 2500 ewe breeding flock and was using similar Merryville bloodlines.
After failing to buy the top price ram he planned to join the ewes to a Woolkabin ram he already owned.
The $150 second top price for ewes, again 10 regulation shorn and tagged 1.5yo ewes, also came from a new buyer.
Danny Hansberry, Kojonup, shears about 12,000 sheep annually and wanted to build a good nucleus flock.
He intended to only buy 20-30 ewes but considered the sale represented value for money and took home 164 from several age groups.
"Two or three years ago I would have had to pay a lot more," Mr Hansberry said.
It was a sentiment shared by the vendor who said current times were difficult for Merinos but under the circumstances the sale had gone well.
Maiden ewes topped the $100 mark twice more when Daniel Caelli and son Luke, Ravensthorpe, whose flock also was based Merryville bloodlines, came with the intention of buying the foundations for a new stud.
They were impressed with the quality saying they could not go wrong with what they had bought.
They paid up to $135 for 28 1.5yo ewes and $100 for a second pen of 42 the same age.
They also paid up to $75 for a pen of 61 ewe lambs and $42.50 for a second pen of 40.
They finished their buying with a $2100 3.5yo Merryville blood sire to use over them.
The top price for the ewe lambs came from fellow stud breeder Rod Norrish, Angenup stud, Kojonup.
He paid up to $115 for the first pen of 61 after earlier buying 52 2.5yo ewes for $65.
Activity by Navanvale stud principal Chris Hogg, Williams, also acknowledged the Sprigg family's years of diligent Merino breeding when he paid $115 for the first pen of 49 2.5yo ewes and was successful on three other lines at more moderate $50-$60 prices.
During his welcoming address Mr Sprigg said he was leaving the industry at an exciting time in the stud's development when their efforts of past few years were beginning to show through.
He was confident people would appreciate the wools that they had introduced over the past 4-5 years.
This was confirmed by buyers who paid an average of $64.43 for the 240 ewe lambs compared with a lower $60.76 average for the 892 mature ewes.
While the lambs were the strong point of the dispersal, the ram lambs were unquestionably a sale highlight with other stud breeders meeting Bill Morey's mighty cheque book for the first time.
Mr Morey, Bokerup, a long term Strathglen West buyer who had dominated annual ram sales, was determined to shore up ram supplies for the next few years.
While he paid up to $400 for a pen of four he also forced others to lift their sites.
He bought 57 in total and pushed Navanvale to the $460 top price.
Mr Hogg said he was reducing the number of wethers he carried and wanted to increase stud ewe numbers.
In addition to the 175 ewes, he also bought 23 ram lambs with the plan of running them through with his own and offering them for sale next year and hopefully find a sire or two among them for his own use.
He paid $380 for five and $340 for 10.
Other studs to buy were Barooga which paid $440 for five ram lambs; Toorackie, owned by Dennis Haddrick, Williams, up to $250 for a pen of eight; and existing commercial client Peter Paini, Kojonup, up to $320 was another high price payer.
The 160 ram lambs set a $181.37 average.
The sale finished with eight sires that averaged $2325 and included another high price ram.
Bruno Luciano, Boorabbin stud, Wannamal, who earlier in the year paid $3200 at the on-property ram sale, returned for the dispersal.
He had been part of the three-way battle on the top price ram only a few pens previously and went to $4000 for a 3.5yo proven sire that included 150 doses of semen already in storage.
Elders stud stock man Kevin Broad, who had been instrumental in setting up the sale, bid to $2400 for a 2003 drop ram on behalf of an undisclosed client.
Mal Cavanagh, Tenterden, paid $1700 for another 2003 drop ram as well as buying 54 4.5yo ewes for $65.