THE benefits of on-farm buying were demonstrated for the 14th consecutive year when maiden ewe prices hit an $18 high at the Darkan Williams on-property sheep sale last week. For the second consecutive year, George Klug at the Williams end of the circuit topped the sale. This year, he set the pace with half of a 624-head offering of maiden ewes when Kevin Lavender, Moojatting Springs, Quindanning, was forced to go a dollar more for the second split of the line. PJ & RJ Feutrall, Vasse, adhering to the auctioneer's adage that "the first is always the cheapest" won the first pen with a $17 bid. But Kevin figured, as he bred his own Suffolk rams, he could afford to pay a bit extra for young ewes, plus he has had the experience of the Klugs' ewes before, when he bought the line privately several years ago. Joint sale co-ordinator Richard Buckland, Wesfarmers Dalgety Darkan, said solid prices throughout the day created a $14.57 average, comparable to ewe sales such as Wickepin but the result took on even more significance because the sale was west of the Albany highway. Also charged with co-ordinating the event was Jeremy Genders, who was extremely pleased with the result, saying prices were excellent. The mutton market was $2-$3 lower than at the same time last year but values gained on the day did not reflect this. Seven vendors, including two that were new to the cross-country circuit, took part in the sale, with three established vendors withdrawing because they were concentrating on the ram lamb market. Many of the lines were presented in the wool but were sold on a bare shorn basis with a flexible delivery date after shearing. The sale started at Meringee Farms, Trigwell, where Bob Hall's group of X-pert Grazing farmers, who lease the property, were dispersing a genuine line of 2076 maiden ewes. Their plan was to run a wether-only flock and the ewes were offered with the buyer having the option of part or the lot. Farm management consultant David Bedbrook made it a quick stop when he took the lot, paying $17.60 on behalf of EF Smart Pty Ltd to stock a new property at Geraldton. He said he would take up the option to run the sheep at Trigwell until after Christmas and would join the ewes to Merino rams. Long-term vendor Roclea South, Warragull Pty Ltd, Darkan, epitomised the confidence buyers had in the selling concept, with Eric Ipsen, Twin Lakes, Manjimup, paying $16.40 for his 577 maiden ewes via a buying order. Roclea received the $15.40 top for 2.5yo ewes, paid by prime lamb breeder Michael Kain, Williams. Michael bought 605 head and paid the day's $15.20 top for 180 3.5 and 4.5yo ewes, also offered by Warragull Pty Ltd. The sale's success has been built, in part, on the size and quality of the lines offered by vendors, not to mention the attraction of flexible delivery date and the confidence it instils as a safer way to buy sheep. Roy Gooding, Darkan, was one who appreciated the bulk numbers. He bought 1078 and paid up to $14.20 for a line of 406 2.5yo Peppin ewes yarded by another first time vendor David Clarke, Darkan. Roy also set a $13.80 top for Tuer Pty Ltd farm manager Wayne Watts, Darkan, when he bought his 385 maiden ewes. Big Kojonup prime lamb producer Brian Cooper bought 1483 ewes, including 900 5.5yo ewes offered by Bill and Robyn Creswell, Williams. This line had produced 110 per cent lambs, while a second line of 190 Creswell Trust 3.5-4.5yo ewes sold for $14.40 to the same buyer. First time vendor Richard and Lou Higham, Wild Horse Hill, Williams, topped at $13.40 for 104 3.5yo ewes sold to Bridgetown prime lamb producer Eddie Glancy, bringing Eddie's total to 536 ewes.