THERE were big changes at the Koobelup Dohne ram sale last week at Narrogin, but it was business as usual for buyers who set a $3500 top price and kept averages well elevated to finish at $1015 for 74 rams.
Before the sale former Koobelup stud principal Ian Hannah welcomed buyers but it was new owners Harold Wass and family, Harold Park South stud, Mayanup, who were experiencing the normal pre-sale apprehension after taking over the stud in April.
Under the sale agreement Mr Wass, who owns Harold Park South Dohnes, said Mr Hannah would continue on for the next three years in an advisory role.
He said this year's lot of lambs were on the ground and looking good, but the two studs eventually would be merged and they would adopt the Koobelup prefix.
"Koobelup has a reputation that is recognised and respected in WA," Mr Wass said.
"The two studs will complement each other because they both have a very pronounced crimpy wool that holds up well in the Boyup Brook rainfall.
"They proved that the first year we moved to here and we have always been very hard on sheep with wool faults.
"This year we had 700 millimetres and with all the drizzle it tested them again and there were no problems at all."
After farming in northern areas at Carnamah, Coorow and Perenjori, as well as at Boyup Brook, he could say the Dohne was a versatile breed that thrived in all areas and seasonal conditions.
Before the sale Mr Wass said he didn't want big high prices.
"This is our first big sale and I just want everyone to get what they want and go home happy," he said.
"I would rather clear them all at a lower price than have to take them all home."
Mr Wass knew it would be harder to sell rams this year but the result was promising and they still had private selection sales to come.
The sale was a big step from their small on-property sale and it comprised mainly Koobelup rams with the inclusion of a small line of Harold Park South sheep.
Significantly it was a ram carrying the Harold Park South prefix that topped the sale and set a stud record price for the Wass family.
Existing clients Geoff and Stacey Dalton, Allawa Grazing Co, Kojonup, outbid the formidable and free-spending Wemyss Estate, Gnowangerup, to secure the ram.
Wemyss Estate manager George Hams and adviser David Halleen had outbid their opposition all through the sale until lot 88 went under the hammer.
Both parties were stretched to the limit but for the Daltons it was one of only two rams in the shed they were determined to buy and they did not stop.
Mr Dalton said they wanted a good sire to go into the 700-ewe Dohne flock they established two years ago.
They had added to their numbers when they bought a draft of Harold Park ewes last year and now aimed to improve the standard saying the best way to get the results was to spend money on good genetics.
The Dohnes were run alongside the Dalton's (leased) Merino and a prime lamb producing enterprises and offered a singular all-round package because they were a self-replacing breed that had size, wool and the ability to turn off wether lambs at a young age.
Their top price ram was a tall, deep, long bodied ram that stood over a lot of ground.
It was by Harold Park South 170116 and a single-born lamb that had a high 170.3 Dohne Plus index with particularly good 6.2 PWWT, 1.3 PEMD, 0.5 PFAT and 11.8 YCFW Australian Sheep Breeding Values.
Allawah Grazing bought two other rams for $1600 each.
The $2300 second top price was set almost at the end of the sale at lot 91.
This time it was Brian Trundle, BN & VJ Trundle, Kulin, who was the buyer.
Mr Trundle said it was wool quality more than anything that attracted him.
He originally had Merinos and still looked at sheep from a Merino perspective despite switching to Dohnes 19 years ago.
Mr Trundle bought three rams getting others at $1000 and $600.
Wemyss Estate returned to the sale for the third year and took prices to $2100 (2) and $2000 (2) as it put together a team of 11 rams and it figured in many of the higher price and higher indexing rams.
The sale surged and attracted some strong competitive spirit for rams with the right set of figures to go with their visual appearance, but others failed to attract attention through lack of buyer support.
Throughout the sale Elders auctioneer Nathan King noticed buyers' preference for sheep with higher eye muscle and growth ASBVs and his observations were confirmed with the day's volume buyer Gavin Hagboom, father Colin and son Ashton, Dowerin, saying with lower wool prices they had taken the emphasis off wool and wanted lambs that reached weaning weights quicker and had greater eye muscle measurements.
They came to the sale wanting 10-12 but with many rams in the later stages of the sale offering good value they decided to get a few extras to replace older sires and went home with 14.
Spokesman Gavin Hagboom said they had increased sheep numbers to take advantage of the ewe trade to eastern Australia that would hopefully continue.
They were long-term Dohne breeders and had always adhered to their goal of breeding quality Wheatbelt Dohnes that had stylish wool with extra nourishment suited to their dryer conditions.
The big Dohne bonus had come in the form of a higher lambing percentage in the mid-90 per cent range.
Mr King said the Hagbooms had an outstanding ewe flock in terms of wool quality and lambing percentage that was testament to how well the Koobelup Dohnes performed.
The family paid up to $1700 and paid many of the better prices.
Another high price payer was Rachel Browne, Chirniminup Dohne stud, Nyabing, who bought two rams paying a $1900 top for one of a group of young July drop rams and $1300 for another that carried a background of Mt Alma breeding she wanted.
Ben Kowald, Katanning, returned to buy just a couple of rams but went home with six for up to $1400 and another major buyer was Peter Coles, Wagin, who bought nine at below average values.