EXTRA ram numbers at Chirniminup's Dohne ram sale on Monday allowed commercial sheepmen to rein in their spending after last year's red-hot result.
The buyers' register at the Nyabing sale included several first-time buyers and was as long as usual, but an extra 17 rams and a vastly different industry environment reduced the buying pressure considerably.
This year prices topped at $3700 compared with $3800 last year and the sale average fell by $387 to $1626, a value in line with one pre-sale price tipster but well above stud principal Rachel Browne's expectations.
After a steady year-on-year price hike, the ease in values was just what Ms Browne wanted saying she had been concerned that last year's high prices would frighten off clients.
"I am thrilled with how the rams lined-up and we are so appreciative of client support and a sale like this is good for everyone," Ms Browne said.
"It was never our intention to reduce numbers and we were prepared to have some passed in but we wanted buyers to have a really good selection."
That is exactly how the sale went.
"It was red-hot in the start and finished well in the end with a ram for every price range."
Nutrien Livestock auctioneer Mark Warren told buyers they would go a long way to find any better in Australia.
"And I'm not saying that just because I am selling - you are in the right place," Mr Warren said.
But few needed convincing of the quality.
Two well-established buyers stuck to their budgets, sharing out most of the high price sheep evenly with the exception of one.
The ram in pen 22 was the sole animal selected by Tim Adams, PW & LF Adams, Kukerin, at the top price of $3700.
After buying from Chirniminup for the past five years it was his first time as a top price buyer and the ram will join only a handful of others to breed F1 Dohne/Merino ewes that are joined to White Suffolk sires.
Mr Adams said they continued to run a big East Mundalla blood Merino flock and used Dohne rams to maintain a 350 head flock of F1 ewes that gave them a lifetime of superior production both in wool and meat.
"The Dohnes are tough, hardy doers and when you are keeping ewes until six years old you still need all the good fleece traits," Mr Adams said.
The ram was by TR147388, a veteran sire that had been used in several eastern Australian studs and noted for producing good staple length, with soft nourished bolder crimping wool and in the top 20 percentile band for weaning weight (WWT) and post weaning weight (PWT).
For Mr Adams the ram was an all-rounder in terms of carcase, body structure, wool quality and was backed with good Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs).
As a wool producer he appreciated the surface and style of the ram's free-growing fleece that had a current 17.4 micron and 64 per cent yield.
ASBVs also put the ram in the top five percentile band for WWT +5.5, PWT and 172.2 index.
The sale hit $3100 and $3000 as Braden Johnston, Johnston Plains, Nyabing, selected a bigger than usual team of 11 rams, saying nothing had changed in his prime lamb enterprise but it was one of those years when he needed more Dohne rams and fewer White Suffolks.
Although it had been a hard season, he had already sold 2800 sucker lambs from the March/April drop and had marked 122 per cent lambs from the July drop.
He also paid $2800, $2600 (3) before averaging back the cost with one $800 ram from the back row to be one of the more determined bidders.
His team came at a $2345 average.
Another buyer with similar intent was Jim Johnston (MM & MJ Johnston & Son), Boyup Brook, who paid up to $2800 and $2700 twice among an eight-ram total that averaged $2263 .
Some of the bigger repeat buyers included Wade Brockway and father Greg, Wagin, who started buying at lot four and were still bidding successfully at lot 194 as they put together a 15-ram team.
One of the stud's long-term clients Greg Brockway heaped praise on the stud, saying he had seen the rams improve every year and this year's line-up was the best yet.
They paid up to $2400 but still found quality in the later stages to bring their average close to that of the sale.
Anbrook Grazing Co, owned by the Wanbrough family, Beverley, also bought 14 spending up to $1800.
For most buyers the absolute limit was $2600 with Wayne Crook, Coolangatta Trust, Kojonup, paying $2600 and $2200 for his two rams; TC & GS Gray, Dumbleyung, paid up to $2400 twice; PR & LR Coles, Wagin, paid up to $2700 and $2600 for the best of nine; DB & JT Sims & Co, Beverley, paid up to $2600; and first time buyer CJ & KL West, Wagin, paid $2400 for a single ram with an outstanding 190.2 index driven by +5.9 WWT and +7.1 PWT figures in the top five percentile band.
Two other first-time buyers were Cundarra Pastoral, Gingin, which bought five late in the sale and Abban Farms, owned by Andrew and Bianca James, Karlgarin.
The couple was making changes to their sheep enterprise after reviewing the economics and problems of buying-in ewes for prime lamb production.
Mr James said they were buying in hogget to 3.5-year-old ewes for as much as $170 a head, but found the losses and age problems of the older sheep were costly.
Instead they wanted to start breeding their own ewes to get a full lifetime of production and liked the idea of Dohnes because the lambs fitted the prime lamb market and they could turn off the ewes at a younger age.
They recently sold some of their cattle and bought in a line of Dohne blood ewes before deciding to source rams from Chirniminup based on the stud's good word-of-mouth reputation.
They bought five rams for up to $1700 (2).