A top quality presentation of Poll Merino rams greeted buyers at the Hiview on-property ram sale at Kulikup on Monday and enticed a $3000 top price from a small buying contingent.
Hiview stud co-principal Perry Corker anticipated the tougher market, reducing ram numbers from 80 to 60.
However, buyers failed to show the same spirit as in recent years - but still clearing 49 lots.
It is a long-held opinion that grain cheques buy rams in the Wheatbelt, but not so in the western areas and that theory held weight this week.
Dedicated sheepmen had the luxury of a good selection and weaker competition and, combined with buyers' responses to the commercial sheep market, this year's sale average was almost halved.
First-time buyer Wayne Girando, Girando Farming Trust, Dinninup, bought the $3000 top-priced ram.
As a near-neighbour he had attended many Hiview sales but had never bought.
He found good value throughout the shed, but it was lot four that ticked all the boxes and he went home with his first and only purchase for the day.
He and wife Emma and children Jack and Finn run a sheep-dominated enterprise comprising 3000 breeding ewes for which they breed their own sires from a 200-head nucleus flock.
The ram will be used over a selected line of 70 nucleus ewes.
"It wasn't the biggest ram in the line-up, but for us it was a very safe sheep because we run a non-mulesing operation," Mr Girando said.
"It had a little less skin than others, good Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV) and a good white wool, even fleece and - more than anything - it was the wool quality we wanted."
The ram was by Hiview 180491, which traced back to Kamora Netley Park 4 and was above average in all ASBV traits.
Individual components showed 9.9 yearling greasy fleece weight, -2.1 yearling fibre diameter, 6.7 yearling weight, 0.1 yearling eye muscle depth and -0.9 yearling fat to give a 144.9 MP+ index and a 146.59 DP+ index.
Current measurements showed a 17-micron fleece with 99.9 per cent comfort factor and 108 kilogram bodyweight when weighed five days previously.
By the end of the day of selling, Elders auctioneer James Culleton signed off on a $1210 average compared with last year's $2128 average when 69 out of 80 rams sold to a $7200 top.
For Mr Corker it was not an unexpected result.
"We trimmed numbers and consoled ourselves that it wouldn't be a bumper sale," Mr Corker said.
"I really thought it would have been worse - most clients backed off (in their requirements) and one who was here was burnt out in the Donnybrook fire and didn't buy any."
Those who were in attendance proved the accuracy of his comments.
DC & MC Reid, Kilamarup Farms, Boyup Brook, bought 19 rams last year - this year they bought 13 and paid a $2000 top.
In contrast, last year they paid up to $4300 and averaged $2347 for 19.
Kilamarup Farms has been buying Hiview rams for 20 years and spokesman Alex Reid said they were still working through their sheep options for the coming year.
At the moment they were primarily wool-focused but it was likely they would increase their cropping ratio and run more prime lambs while remaining hopeful the market would turn around in the next 12-18 months.
They found good value buying among the offering but their top price ram in pen 41 was one they really wanted and it inspired a burst of late competition.
He described it as a true dual-purpose type with a plain body and great ASBVs.
"We always try to buy rams with above average figures so we know we are constantly improving," Mr Reid said.
The son of Hiview 190340 (Hamilton bloodline) had a 147.4 DP+ and a 17.3-micron fleece.
Kilamarup Farms also paid $1900, $1600, $1400 (2), $1200 (4), before values eased late in the selling.
One of Hiview's longest standing clients, Wayne Credaro, Echo Farming, Carbunup River, paid the $2100 second top price for lot three and bought an increased number of rams.
Last year Echo Farming bought a single ram but this year it bought four paying $1600 and $1500 for others.
The Credaro family started its flock with a line of cast-for-age Hiview ewes almost 25 years ago and have used nothing but Hiview sires since.
RD Hack, Boyup Brook, was also a volume buyer and secured nine rams for up to $1300 but, in the absence of competition, most were bought at $800.
It was a similar story for Gordon Coleman, trading as Kilreany Farms, Kojonup, who came for fewer rams and again, managed to get most at the $800 reserve but did pay up to $1200 twice.
The former Irish farmer bought property at Changerup and settled in WA almost seven years ago and has retained the property's existing bloodline.
This year he bought six compared with 10 last year.
One final buyer of note was MM & MJ Johnston, Boyup Brook, who bought four rams - but paid some of the highest prices in the sale.
They bought lot one for $1900, then paid $1700 (2) and $1200 for others.
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