WHAT a year it has been for sheep.
Following a record ram selling season, where more than $19m was spent on new breeding sires, the majority of store sheep and circuit sales have now been completed and prices have remained at levels unseen for many years.
Record lamb prices, an excellent season and a shortage of sheep in the system have all contributed to excellent ewe prices across the state.
Prime lamb producers were again major players in the market, buying replacement ewes for the coming mating season.
But this year they faced more competition from graziers, looking to increase sheep numbers after several bad seasons forced big flock reductions.
Another feature of many of the store sheep sales was the added competition from eastern states buyers, who after one of their biggest droughts on record were looking to take advantage of relatively cheaper sheep prices in WA compared to their local prices.
All of these factors combined to bring about a buoyant sheep selling season, with young ewes consistently selling in the $90 - $120 mark and older ewes up to $60-$70.
Landmark livestock sales manager (sheep) Chris Medcalf said it was a buoyant period for sheep sales.
"There was a strong influence from the wheatbelt with restocking and rebuilding of breeding flocks in those areas," he said.
"Competition also came from great southern areas, where producers had probably held onto their older ewes for an extra two to three years and with prices for older ewes high, sold these off and could afford to spend more on replacement ewes.
"Eastern states buyers kept a strong base in the market and enquiry from them was strong and they were paying between $70 and $90 for younger ewes.
"There would have been 15,000 or 20,000 sheep sent east by Landmark, with saleyard and private purchases on-farm combined."
Chris said quality sheep continued to attract premiums.
"Although the market has come back in recent times, dispersal sales are still averaging $60 for bare shorn sheep and mixed vendor sales are around $55," he said.
"Sales definitely lived up to expectations and probably the strongest sale of the year was the Bruce Rock/Narembeen sheep sale where a genuine dispersal of sheep offered by the Foss family and lines of first cross SAMM ewes made terrific money.
"It was probably one of the best sales I have seen with eastern states and local buyers both competing."
Elders sheep coordinator and store stock officer Ian White said it was the best sheep selling season he can remember.
"Ewes in particular sold very well throughout the sheep selling season and there was competition from a number of sectors that maintained prices at good levels,² he said.
"Corporate operations were very active in building numbers and eastern states buyers also put a floor in the market.
"Wheatbelt farmers were also active looking to restock and rebuild their numbers and as always the prime lamb producers were in there competing on the older age ewe lines."
Ian said prices were consistent across the board for any age group.
"Vendors should be very happy with the prices received, genuine sheep dispersals were well received by buyers and there were some excellent results achieved at these type of sales," he said.
"I think people can see the returns that they can get from sheep, and some guys that had in the past been running an all cropping program were getting back into stock for weed control purposes and because there is a dollar in it."