A STAUNCH group of long-term buyers were enthusiastic in their bidding, taking prices to a $2700 high at the 55th annual Rutherglen ram sale at Narrogin.
Despite some names missing from the buying register, those in attendance held values at a level similar to last year to inscribe another entry for a stud that will soon mark 70 years since it was established.
In that time clients have forged a well-respected reputation for the quality of their cast-for-age ewes at commercial sheep sales that commands a premium.
For top price buyers Ben Doyle and his father Greg, Wylivere Farms, Corrigin, upholding that reputation added to the incentive to pick out and buy just one top ram.
The men run a 400-ewe nucleus to breed their own rams for a big 4600-head commercial ewe flock that has been based for more than 30 years on Rutherglen sires.
Over the years the family has achieved Elders clip of the week several times and has done well with cast-for-age ewes in the Corrigin sale.
Spokesman Ben Doyle said his father was still a passionate wool producer who had always pushed production and stocking rates and they stuck with the Rutherglen bloodline because of wool quality and their ability to thrive in their conditions.
Mr Doyle said the stud had big sheep and good wool to go with it and after such a long time they were familiar with the sheep.
"We know whatever we buy will keep on growing and will produce well," Mr Doyle said.
By the end of the day stud principal Buster Dawes and family had cleared 100 of the 120-ram offering and recorded a $1080 average compared with 2019 when they averaged $1182.
For Elders auctioneer Preston Clarke the sale unfolded as a typical 2020 Merino sale, encountering all the ups and downs of an unusual year.
"It was a standard Merino sale that was affected by clients with a lack of feed or water who had sold off ewes and needed reduced ram numbers," Mr Clarke said.
"Depending on where your clients are largely based, it has affected some sales more than others."
Studmaster Whippy Dawes was less concerned with sale statistics but pleased with the continued support from clients who were able to get a good selection and go away happy with what they bought.
Rodney Petchell, Williams, was another buyer who had nothing but praise for Rutherglen blood ewes, saying they were always among the best in the saleyards.
He was one of the stud's newer buyers and bought just two rams, saying he kept a special line of 400 Rutherglen blood ewes that he ran separately and joined to Rutherglen sires.
He bought the sires to use within the group and paid the $2300 second top price and equal $1900 third highest price.
The stud is known for its no-frills presentation of stock and this year it was no different.
The rams were well grown and showed plenty of the stylish fibre that inspired the catchy 'the wetter the weather the whiter the wools' slogan, but apart from that it was what you see is what you get and some buyers have been loving it for more than 50 years.
Among the longest returning clients was Andy and Helen Burton, Ravensthorpe, who continued the tradition set by his father 50 years ago, when he bought 10 rams for some of the highest prices.
Mr Burton paid up to $1900 and $1800 twice before he was able to average back in the later stages of the sale, saying he wanted fewer rams this year but bought more because the price was right.
"We are down in (ewe) numbers this year because of water but we will build them up again when we get some run-off," Mr Burton said.
The only other buyers who have been clients longer than Mr Burton were the Guinness brothers, Richard and Tony, who each run their own separate farms.
According to Mr Dawes, who will turn 91 in a few days, they have been on the buyers' register for 54 years.
The first to buy was Richard, trading as RJ & CM Guiness, Corrigin, who bought six rams for up to $1800 while Tony, trading as AM & MA Guiness, Kunjin, twice paid up to $1600 for his six.
Rutherglen and its versatile wool drew clients from across a broad area of WA, including Ray Glassford Nominees, Dandaragan, who left a buying order with Elders stud stockman Kevin Broad who purchased seven rams at value buying.
H & A Norton & Sons, Boyup Brook, farm manager Ron Bingham, was another to demonstrate the bloodline's high rainfall capability when he bought seven rams for up to $1100 and ranked among one of the stud's newer clients.
Mr Bingham said the sheep lived up to their reputation for withstanding high rainfall and since settling as Rutherglen buyers they rarely encountered any fleece rot or dermatitis.
For Gary Cowcher, GB & AT Cowcher, Williams, it was only his third time buying from the stud and he spent up to $1500 to get seven rams.
Other notable buyers included Michael Bowman, Shorelands Pastoral, who also paid up to $1600 to get four rams.
Richard Elson, RJ & SM Elson, Yealering, also featured among the high price buyers getting nine rams and twice paying $1400.
Included in his selection was the $1400 top price Poll.
The day's volume buyer was Peter Fulwood, Jam Tree Pastoral Co, Corrigin, who bought a parcel of 11 and supported the later stages of the auction.