A quality line-up of rams and support from loyal clients - that's what can be expected at the Darkan and Districts Stud Breeders' ram sale year-in and year-out.
And this year was no different, with an impressive mix of Poll Dorset, Suffolk and Ile De France rams presented in the Darkan ram pavilion by eight stud breeders.
There were mixed results and reduced competition on some drafts compared to 2022, which resulted in a lower overall average of $913 down from $1014 last year.
Joint selling agent Nutrien Livestock auctioneer Peter Foley said the support from long-term clients was "very important" at the sale.
Mr Foley said despite some results perhaps not being as strong for a number of new vendors, there were positive signs in the quality of rams penned.
Breaking down the breeds, the Poll Dorset offering was made up by Denroy stud, Darkan, Marapana stud, Mumballup, and Spring Valley stud, Darkan.
Meanwhile, the Suffolk rams were penned by Wendenlea stud, Boddington, Alibry stud, Wagin, WA College of Agriculture - Narrogin - Collegian stud, and Goldenover stud, Cuballing.
Goldenover also put together a small Ile De France team, alongside Monteray stud, Tambellup.
Despite being down on last year's $2800 high, the top price of $1400 was reached five times.
Marapana stud's Chris Marwick claimed four of those - meaning a third of the 12 Poll Dorset rams he penned topped the sale.
Under the watch of Westcoast Wool & Livestock auctioneer Steve Harris, Marapana had a full clearance, with an average of $1192, down $258 on last year.
The drop in average was certainly not reflective of the quality of rams Mr Marwick had offered and Westcoast Wool & Livestock representatives and joint selling agents Mat Lowe and Chris Wardle agreed.
Mr Lowe bid on behalf of Della Bosca, Bosca Holdings, North Bodallin, Russ Oates, Wilyabrup Vineyard Contracting, Wilyabrup and Peter and Natalie Jackson, PR & NC Jackson, Collie, and Mr Wardle for John and Larnie Jackson, JS & LP Jackson, Bowelling.
Three of the top-priced rams were purchased by Bosca Holdings to make up a team of four at an average of $1350.
One of those weighed 133 kilograms and held Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) results of 51mm eye muscle depth (EMD), 102mm eye muscle width (EMW), and 8mm fat.
Mr Lowe said it was good to see return buyers at the sale, with a line-up of well-presented rams holding "really good" figures.
"Mr Oates and Bosca Holdings have been using the Marapana Poll Dorset genetics for several years," Mr Lowe said.
"They were chasing those bigger muscling, stretchier type rams, which is what we found here today.
"Marapana stud had a good clearance with repeat buyers, which is always good to see."
Prices remained consistent, hovering around the $1000 to $1400 mark and were spread evenly between all four buyers.
Mr Foley sold the other top-priced sire, which was one of 15 presented by the Denroy Poll Dorset stud.
Purchased by Tom and Robyn Quill, Duranillin, the ram had a tidy set of ASBVs including 17.3kg post
weaning weight (PWWT), -0.3mm PFAT (post weaning fat), 2.4mm EMD, combining for a 148.75 terminal carcase production (TCP) index.
The Quills run a 50:50 Merino and prime lamb enterprise, with 2500 breeding ewes, of which 1200-head are crossed to Poll Dorsets and 1300-head to Merino sires.
The couple have been using Denroy genetics for more than 20 years, and like the "low birth weights and "good growth rates".
"They aren't too lean and have good fat cover, which is what you need to go over a Merino ewe," Mr Quill said.
"We also like that they are paddock reared.
"I was looking for what I normally look for - low birth weights, good growth rates and good fat."
And that's exactly what he found in lot 14, which was one of two purchases the Quills made at the sale, having secured another Denroy ram for $1000.
"The top-priced ram had the highest growth rate, he was -0.3 on the fat and the eye muscle was also quite good," Mr Quill said.
"We'll put him to use straight after Christmas for lambing in the last week of May into June."
Volume buyer from Denroy stud was Lynford Farms, Williams, with five rams at a top of $1300 and $1080 average.
Other buyers included Campbell Curnow Partnership, Darkan, Telfer Farms, Darkan, and Polynesia Holding.
With some inspired bidding, Mr Foley cleared all rams for an average of $1080, down only $35 on last year and $38 on the year before.
Spring Valley Poll Dorset stud principals Des and Geoffrey Gooding also had a good clearance with 18 of their 20 rams sold by Westcoast Wool & Livestock, for an average of $631, down $169 on the year before.
The majority of those were purchased by Wayne Duffield, Darkan, who put together a team of 14.
The remaining four rams were purchased by Ian Woodruff, Darkan.
As a long-term client of Spring Valley, Mr Duffield said he liked that the rams were paddock bred and had good shape.
"I like their rams, they are well-priced for what we do and they perform well, so I don't see the need to change," Mr Duffield said.
Mr Duffield runs 8500 breeding ewes, which are used in a 40:60 Poll Dorset crossbred and Merino program.
This year, he is looking to increase his crossbred program to suit current market conditions.
"Given what is going on in the sheep market at the moment crossbred lambs are perhaps easier to sell than others," Mr Duffield said.
"I'm certainly looking at increasing our crossbred program this year and maybe even over the next couple of years, depending on how it all pans out.
"We farm in an area where we can't crop every hectare, so we have to run livestock of some description and sheep are the answer for us."
Commenting on the WA sheep market's current conditions he said, "as farmers we are pretty resilient, we alw+ays find ways around things".
"It will be tough, but we need to try and stay as positive as we can," Mr Duffield said.
He will put the crossbred rams to use in February for a July 1 lambing.
Alison Batt, Alibry stud, Wagin, had one buyer operating on her seven Suffolk rams, of which four were sold for an average of $600.
Meanwhile, Ray Batt, Goldenover, Cuballing sold three of the four Ile De France rams he had penned for a $1300 top (2) and $1067 average.
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