THE demand for Prime SAMMs hit the highpoint of the ram selling season when 65 rams averaged $2435 at a spectacular Gracefield sale at Katanning.
In addition to the 2-tooth offering a further 27 ram lambs averaged $1224 in a sale that drew buyers from across state borders.
The sale highlighted the new emphasis that farmers are now placing on meat and carcase sheep and apart from the 60 registered buyers there was a big crowd that attended for interest's sake only.
Stud principal Rocco DeBellis summed up the sale in a single word, brilliant, and important for him was the number of return buyers.
"They are obviously performing in the paddock and that shows there is a real future for the breed."
The $4400 top price came from Alan Guthrie and father Jack from Busselton whose reason for buying was just one example of the wide diversity with which farmers view the breed.
Alan used his first Prime SAMM genetics three years ago in his flock of 2500 Polwarth ewes mainly to increase eye muscle area in the Polwarths.
He bought two Prime SAMM rams last year to use over the F1's and at Gracefield last week bought a son of the high ranking sire Sam especially for its staple length.
He planned to join it to pure Polwarth ewes in with the aim of retaining the Polwarths inherent staple length.
Alan had also planned to up grade to a pure line of Prime SAMM's but also keep a sizeable proportion of the flock as first cross.
The sale's average for 2-tooth rams was up by $517 on last year when 40 rams were sold.
This year Rocco included 27 ram lambs from his general stud flock saying he had a "fair few" general stud ewes which allowed him to sell the lambs this year without detracting from sale numbers in 2003.
In his pre-sale address Wesfarmers Landmark auctioneer Dennis Roberts told the big audience that Rocco was not one to do things by halves and described him as the ambassador for the breed saying "you won't see any better line up of Prime SAMMs in Australia".
The $4200 second top price was paid by a partnership of Philip and Wendy Russell, Allure stud, Broomehill, and Katanning commercial breeder Rod Bushell.
They paid particular attention to the ram's 21.95 micron and 98.8pc comfort factor but for many buyers wool quality figures did not come into consideration, preferring instead to focus on eye muscle depth and conformation.
Early in the sale Keith and Kylie Hathway, who are starting a new stud at Kalannie, paid $4100.
They bought their first Prime SAMMs at the SAABCO dispersal and were upgrading to a pure commercial flock as well as building stud number from an embryo transfer program.
Also paying $4100 was the only successful interstate buyer Grant Picker, Bigga stud, Bigga, NSW, who had left a buying order.
His selection had some of the most impressive all-round figures for wool and meat measuring 20.6 microns with a 99.5pc comfort factor, 42 millimetre eye muscle depth and a 1239 index.
Local farmer Willi Ball overshadowed all with a $21,700 spending spree that netted him eight rams at a $2713 average.
Willi was a strong buyer at Gracefield last year and had a drop of more than 3000 F1 and F2 lambs this year. He paid up to $3400 and generally placed his emphasis on carcase characteristics.
The sale opened with $3100 paid by PT & IM Jensen, Pingaring. It was followed by $3100 for lot two paid by new Dumbleyung stud breeder Hayden Edwards.
Among other high price payers was Geoff Tidow, Eseprance, who has been using the breed as a terminal sire.
He paid up to $3400 twice then dominated the ram lamb buying eight and paying the $1650 top for a pen of two.
Also paying the $1650 equal top for a single ram lamb was ER Patterson & Son, Katanning.
Rod Brockman, Clamea Farm, Muradup, paid $3100 and $3000, Collarose Pastoral Co, Katanning, paid $3000 for the best of two rams; and Doug, Brett and Gary Lupton, Beverley, paid $3200 for one of two rams.
Prices mainly were in the $1500 to $2900 range with lower price buying opportunities for ram lambs which sold as low as $800 but more generally in the $1000 to $1300 bracket.
Despite the day's exceptional result it was tinged with sadness with the news that the Gracefield esteemed sire Risey died that morning.
Rocco said the sire had made the stud and was to be offered, along with two other elite sires, for private sale that day. Both the other two sires were withdrawn from sale.