REPEAT volume buyers returning from near and far made this year's 11th annual on-property Mallibee Merino and Poll Merino studs' Wannamal ram sale a success.
But a sliding wool price had an impact, with the number of registered buyers down from 19 last year - when fine wool prices were about 600c a kilogram higher - to 14 this year.
Although the Mallibee sales attracted a very good crowd, at least one regular quality buyer was absent.
Last year's total clearance was also not replicated, with four of the 77 Merino rams on offer passed in last week and six of the 24 Poll rams passed in.
With only an extra three rams on offer this year, the passed-in lots meant last week's sale gross of $93,000 fell $18,350 short of last year's and the sale average of $1022 was down $114.
Mallibee co-principal Roger Glover presented a quality selection of May-June 2019 drop, large-framed rams carrying the stud's hallmark fine, bright, soft-handling and boldly crimped long-staple wool, which brought most of his regular buyers back.
Peter Shields, Menardie Pastoral Company, Dandaragan, was again the volume buyer of the Mallibee sale, purchasing 20 Merino rams in the back two thirds of the sale for the second year in a row.
He paid up to $1000 for two of the first four rams he purchased then went on a buying spree, starting with lot 73 and snapped up 16 of the last 25 rams on offer for an overall sale average of $750 this year.
Peter and his son Stuart started buying Mallibee rams three years ago.
The stylish wool and good service from last year's purchases had brought them back again this year and although they had sold sheep earlier in the year, they still needed a quantity of new rams, Peter Shields confirmed.
Deby and Graeme Pyle, Pyle Bros, Mt Barker, who have supported the Mallibee stud for 11 years and were one of three buyers of four equal top-priced rams last year, were also back and again purchased 17, including one Poll ram and the first and last rams sold on the day.
Active bidders early in the sale, the Pyles bought seven of the first 11 Merino rams offered, paying $1900, $1800 and $1700 three times for their top five rams and out-bidding the same contenders several times for different lots.
They also purchased the lot 55 Merino ram with the $1500 price being donated to the not-for-profit Black Dog Institute to help fund its suicide prevention activities and mental health research.
The Black Dog donation is an annual feature of Mallibee ram sales.
The Pyles paid an average price of $1405 for their rams last week.
"Roger's rams suit our country," Ms Pyle said.
"At east of Mt Barker we're probably as far off the coast as Roger is, so it's a similar climate, the sheep do well and they produce nice bright wool."
Mr Pyle said as the Mallibee bloodlines progeny get older they keep the same micron all the way through.
He said they used to buy rams from The Grange stud, Dongara, but followed the genetics across to the Mallibee stud.
With Mallibee stud consultant Bruce Cameron bidding for him, repeat volume buyer David Cocking, DJ & KL Cocking, Gillingarra, bought 11 Merinos to a top of $1400.
Mr Cameron also successfully bid up to $1200 twice on his behalf, taking the average Mr Cocking paid to $1000.
"For David, the bigger size was very important, provided they had the right type of wool," Mr Cameron said.
Another regular repeat buyer, Sunnydale Trust, Kojonup, also bought 11 rams, including eight Polls, at an average of $809 and to a top of $900.
With Elders stud stock representative Kevin Broad bidding up to a price successfully for those, but missing out on several other rams when outbid, Sunnydale was the volume Poll Merino buyer.
Baldarri Holdings, Spencer Park, Albany, bought 10 rams, including one Poll, to a top of $1100 and an average of $860.
For the second year in a row local farmers, Greg Cocking and sons Mitchell and Scott, EH & BH Cocking, Wannamal, bought the top-priced Mallibee Merino.
They bid up to $2200 this year - $100 less than last year's equal top price - for the 95 kilogram lot three ram from a Roseville Park sire.
It had a fine 15.8 micron fleece with a 99.9 per cent comfort factor and at a mid-March shearing a gross fleece weight (GFW) cut of four kilograms.
This compared with a fleece average of 16.3 microns and an average GFW of 3.8kg for the ram group on offer.
After buying six Mallibee rams last year the Cockings needed only one this year and were prepared to bid up for it.
"We just bought the one, we've still got surplus to requirements from last year," Greg Cocking said.
"We've been buying here basically since Roger started.
"But we're switching more to the PD (Poll Dorset) and whiteface (White Suffolk) over our Merino ewes this year - mainly because of the wool pricing - hence we didn't need that many (Merino rams).
"But I do want to keep the wool quality and Roger does have quality.
"I don't mind paying for quality, but unfortunately the wool price is governing things this year."
Wayne Haeusler, WG Haeusler, Wannamal, paid $1500 for the top-price Poll Merino ram in the three he purchased at an average price of $1166.
With Willandra genetics from Jerilderie, New South Wales, the top-priced 84kg Poll ram had 15.8 micron fleece with 4.3kg GFW cut and a 100pc comfort factor.
"We've been coming here for three or four years, we like his sheep, they're well suited to the area," said Mr Haeusler, who is running about 1000 ewes.
"It was a good line of rams this year."
Elders auctioneer Deane Allen said buyers were "very selective and looking at the frame as well at the wool".
"I know Roger and Gloria's sheep from many years ago - the rams are very good, the wool is very even right through the whole yarding - you could buy a lot of sheep here with very good stylish wool type on them and very good handle," Mr Allen said.
Apart from wool price and the number of sheep that have gone east, water shortages in some areas had also caused woolgrowers to review stocking rates, he said.
"There has also been a bit of a switch over, with some woolgrowers mating their older Merino ewes with meat-breed sheep so there's less of a demand for Merino rams," Mr Allen said.
Mr Glover said he was satisfied with the sale result.
"They way things are, I'm quite happy with the way it went," Mr Glover said.
He noted the difference in demand for his horned rams - the long-term main focus of his past breeding programs - and his Poll rams.
"We'll just kick along with the Polls and see where it goes - try and find some more buyers," Mr Glover said.
Again this year Virbac northern and central area manager Darren Hendry supported the Mallibee studs ram sales by presenting Virbac Multimin products to Menardie Pastoral as volume buyer and to EH & BH Cocking, Wannamal, as highest bidder.