STUD breeders across the board have more than 1000 reasons to smile after this year's ram selling season averaged an impressive $1012 against a challenging backdrop.
Confidence in the sheep industry during the first six months of the year was nothing to write home about and it dwindled even further following a dry July.
Leading into this year's selling season it was very similar to last year with producers facing a great deal of uncertainty in terms of the season and issues in the industry.
After reasonable opening rains and a good break the clouds disappeared in July and the State recorded one of its driest Julys on record.
As a result producers again found themselves struggling to find stock water and feed and this resulted in record yardings at the Muchea Livestock Centre and Katanning for July.
At the Muchea Livestock Centre alone in the first two weeks of July 57,000 sheep were yarded, which was more than three times the number that was yarded over the same two weeks in 2012.
The majority of the sheep which were sold in these sales came from the central, northern and eastern Wheatbelt areas.
But as quickly as the rain dried up in July, it came back in abundance in August and September and has resulted in one of the best seasons ever in terms of feed and crops throughout much of the southern part of the State.
While the season turned around, sheep prices certainly haven't rebounded as strongly in the last 12 months.
The catalyst for the decline over the last two years are the restrictions and costs placed on the live export industry, following the introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).
Since September last year, following the issues in Bahrain when the price of shipping wethers dropped from $95 to $65 over a period of four weeks at the Muchea Livestock Centre weekly trade sale, producers have been waiting for a rebound in price, but it hasn't happened.
Since last September, wether prices have remained low at between $50 to $70, which is close to half what producers were receiving in 2011 and left many questioning when they will see $100 for wethers again.
Like wether prices, lamb prices this year have also remained subdued and have tracked below 2012 prices in the main.
However when the selling season started at the beginning of September prices seemed to kick a little and sucker lambs were selling at 450c/kg which was 50c/kg dearer than 2012, while old season lambs were selling for 350c/kg, which was the same as 2012.
However this year's prices are still a long way from the record highs of 2011 when lambs hit 700c/kg in the yards in July.
Despite the lamb market being well back on 2011, the combination of a positive outlook for lamb both domestically and on the export front provided buyers with some confidence.
In terms of ewe sales this spring they have been similar to slightly stronger than 2012.
Last year prices peaked at $100 at the Landmark Corrigin-Wickepin ewe sale, however this year's sale saw a top of $115.50 and there have been numerous other sales were prices have gone beyond $100 for the top lines.
While sheep prices have been nothing to crow about, the wool market has again provided some interesting times for growers with prices being up and down since July.
In mid-July the gross price for a 175kg bale of 21.0 micron, good style, sound fleece wool with a 66 per cent yield was $1263, while the average price for a bale of the same description for the 2012/13 season based on the Western Market Indicator which averaged 1058c/kg clean was $1320.
Both these prices are fairly close to the 90pc decile, which means wool has only been dearer 10pc of the time in the last 20 years.
At the start of the selling season the Western Market Indicator was at 1019c/kg, which was up 45c/kg or 5pc for sale F07 on August 15, 2013, on the same period last year.
The market rose in early September to 1134c/kg in sale F10, then it dropped away before it peaked again at 1170c/kg in sale F15.
But once again the last two weeks have seen the market fall away and at the completion of last week's sale (F17) the indicator sat at 1119c/kg, which is up from 1069c/kg on the same sale last year.
These prices mean currently a 185kg bale of 21 micron, 68pc yield wool with good length and strength based on prices during the September/October period is sitting at $1400 which is up $30 a bale on 2012.
After taking into account all the factors surrounding the industry, when the selling season started it was anyone's guess what would happen.
But as the season progressed a positive story started to unfold with many sales recording a rise in averages, but the number of rams sold was back on last year.
This year 15,664 Merino, British, Australasian and South African breed rams have been offered to date at sales throughout WA, with 13,310 selling at auction to gross $13,446,150 at a $1012 average and an 85pc clearance.
Last year 16,290 rams were offered and 13,798 sold under the hammer for a gross of $13,847,490 at an average of $1004 and an 85pc clearance.
This means across the board this year, 626 less rams have been offered and 488 less rams have been sold, while the gross is down $381,340 this year.
Overall this year's ram selling season average of $1012 is the fourth best recorded since 2000, and was up $8 on last year and up 45pc on the 2000 average of $697.
In terms of gross, average and clearance the 2003 year is the best on record.
In that year 18,510 rams were offered, 17,159 sold for a clearance of 92pc, while the sales grossed more than $19.5 million and averaged $1137.
Since 2000 we have seen the average peak in 2003 at $1137 and from there it declined to a low of $827 in 2007, before showing an upward trend again.
When it comes to the number of rams offered and sold across all breeds the peak was in 2004 and this was probably a reaction by stud breeders to bring their average ram sale prices back after the highs of 2003.
Since that year the number of rams sold had mirrored the downward trend of the State's sheep flock but this trend was reversed in 2011 with more rams sold.
However like 2012, this year there was again a downward movement in the number of rams sold which was most likely the result of a reduced ewe flock following the dry start to winter.
It was the Merino breed which took the biggest hit in terms of numbers with 529 less rams sold and 439 less offered.
It terms of averages it was a mixed result for the breeds.
The British and Australasian breeds achieved a rise in average of $36 on the back of a bigger offering and more rams sold compared to 2012, while the reduced number of rams sold in the Merino sales no doubt contributed to its lift in average of $15.
However the African breeds failed to lift their average on 2012 with it falling $15, on the back of a smaller offering and less rams sold.
The Merino was again the strongest performer recording an average of $1103.
In terms of market share, the Merino breed still holds more than 50pc of the market.
This year its market share decreased by one point to 61pc of the rams sold, and while it was back on 2012 it was up from 60pc in 2011 and 57pc in 2010.
The Prime SAMM breed also lost one point to finish with a market share of 5pc, while the Dohnes and White Dorper/Dorper breeds maintained their market shares of 6pc and 3pc respectively.
These losses in market share by the Merinos and Prime SAMMs were gained by the British and Australasian breed, which grew its market share by three points to 25pc.
But when you look at the market share of the breeds on the gross figures Merinos hold 66pc, British and Australasian breeds 21pc, Dohnes 6pc, Prime SAMMs 4pc and White Dorpers/Dorpers, 3pc.
Full breed breakdowns in this week's Farm Weekly.