IT was a pleasing result for Lewisdale stud principals Ray and Helen Lewis following a four-year hiatus from the stud Merino game.
Last week the family's Merino and Poll Merino sires were back in the auction ring at the Lewis's Wickepin farm, just in time to welcome in the 2016 WA two-tooth ram selling season.
The 300-strong catalogue of 10 stud Merino rams (2014-drop), 20 stud Poll Merino rams (2014-drop) and 270 specially selected 2015-drop rams sold to an overall average of $1238 and grossed $321,950 - cementing the stud's place as one of the biggest single vendor ram sales in the country.
The sale team averaged a 19.8 micron, 99.11 per cent comfort factor (CF) and 106 kilogram bodyweight.
In the space of 3.5 hours, guest auctioneer Michael Glasser, Glasser Total Sales Management (GTSM), Patrice Vale, New South Wales, and his team managed to clear 260 of the 300 young sires under the hammer.
The only five horned stud Merino rams (2014-drop) filled pens one to five and were knocked down in quick succession for an average price of $2380, and top of $3000.
Lot one attracted the top price when it came to the horns.
The hefty young animal had 22.2 micron wool, a CF of 98.2pc and 141kg bodyweight.
It was knocked down to Stephen Fowler, Jumbuck Plains, Boyatup (via Esperance), who also outbid a handful of contenders to take home the overall top-priced sire of the sale for $4100.
It too was a 2014-drop stud ram which filled pen 13 in the buyer's catalogue.
The young Poll had a 21.76 micron fleece, 98.65pc CF and weighed in at 148kg.
The two rams joined five others from the top end of the catalogue to round out Mr Fowler's buying spree for an average of $2614.
Mr Fowler and his family have been buying Lewisdale rams since 1983.
But in 2011 when Lewisdale closed the gate on 61 years of elite breeding by holding its first dispersal sale, Mr Fowler had no choice but to start breeding his own Lewisdale-blood rams to continue his preferred Merino bloodlines.
"I bought a lot of stud ewes at the second Lewisdale dispersal sale in 2012 and to this day my flock is purely comprised of Lewisdale bloodlines," he said.
"I also bought some stud sires which got me through until last year when I bought nine rams from Ray in a private agreement."
The Fowlers join about 13,000 self-replacing Lewisdale blood ewes each season including a 600-strong nucleus flock that has, in recent times, been the source of the farm's rams.
The mixed age nucleus flock is replenished each season with 50 or so ewe hoggets from the commercial program.
Mr Fowler sees a bright future for his Lewisdale genetics.
He hasn't increased or decreased his flock numbers in line with current industry trends and plans to continue to run Merinos in conjunction with his mixed cropping program.
"We used to buy all horned rams because of their better wool quality," Mr Fowler said.
"Now we're gradually moving over to Polls for ease of management.
"We look for dual purpose-type animals with a big frame, nice bright white wool and a lot of it.
"On average our flock is 21 micron and yields about 70pc on a September/October shearing."
Other noteable rams from the stud sire catalogue included the second top-priced ram of the sale - lot 7 - which attracted a $4000 final bid from F & NL Varone, Hyden.
The Poll ram measured 20.69 in the micron, a 99.7 CF and 141kg weight.
Along with eight other rams it formed the Varone family's team of nine for the day for an average of $2428 - they too were also from the top end of the catalogue.
When it came to the 2015 drop offering, $2300 was the top price paid.
The young Poll recorded a 19.39 micron, 99.2 CF and 112kg weight and was a standout among the buyers.
It too was snapped up by the Varone family.
It took 23 of the 24 registered bidders to clear 260 of the 300 rams on offer.
Lot 153 was the first to be passed in after failing to attract a bid and by the sale of lot 220 reserve prices dropped out of the thousands and into the high hundreds.
Other buyers included W & M Handscombe & Son (18), Quairading, LJ & CJ Tyson (15), Kulin, DP Dunbar & Co (15), Southern Cross, M Drilla Downs Pty (14), Darkan, Sancta Monica Farms (14,) Mullewa and E & K Bormolini (12), Narembeen.
Speaking about his stud comeback following the 2011 and 2012 dispersal sales which saw more than $1 million raised and a total clearance of the ewe and ram catalogues, Mr Lewis said it was sparked by the need for more ewes to be put back into the WA Merino industry following years of dwindling flock numbers.
"The Merino industry has a great challenge ahead of it," he said.
"We need to be working towards counteracting the drop of 5pc per year in national ewe numbers.
"If it continues we won't have an industry - some wool buyers have been caught short this year and kill sheets are also reflecting the problem."
Mr Lewis said the 2016 sale line-up was the best he had ever presented, with the heaviest body weights and wool cuts ever penned by the stud.
"These sheep are bred for their high fertility and big birthweights - it's what the industry needs - the number of lambs born, weaned and sold equals the profitability of our future," he said.
This year's sale also commemorated stud representative John Sherlock's 50th year at Lewisdale.