The fourth annual Tellarup Brook Poll Dorset sale produced a $1200 top price in a market overshadowed by the depressed state of the sheep industry.
While the expected lower prices prevailed at the Manjimup sale vendors Kim and Donette Edwards pledged to continue investing in top sires and genetics and 'would carry on as usual'.
As relative newcomers to the stud industry it was their first experience of a downturn in their life as stud breeders after three buoyant sales.
The overall presentation and quality lacked nothing, but many previous buyers had already responded to the downturn by cutting back ewe numbers or switching to shedding sheep.
The top-priced ram was a good-news story with Elders', Harvey/Brunswick agent Craig Martin returning to select another sire for the WA College of Agriculture - Harvey's commercial prime lamb flock.
Mr Martin had instructions from the college's sheep technical manager Steve Adams to select a sire - preferably with Derrynook Felix bloodlines - with good early growth figures and a good eye muscle measurement.
There were plenty that fitted the criteria but their first choice was in pen one, Tellarup Brook 220128.
On paper, the ram carried the best set of figures in the catalogue culminating in a 151.53 Terminal Carcase Production index that was in LambPlan's top 20 per cent of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs).
Mr Martin said Felix was a sire known for producing low birthweight and rapid early growth progeny and this particular ram had ASBVs showing 0.51 for birthweight, 10.73 for weaning weight, 2.82 for eye muscle, -0.66 for fat, and its 17.05 for post weaning weight and 4.31 for lean meat yield were both in the top 20pc of the breed.
The plan was to use the ram in the college's flock of classed out and cast-for-age Merino ewes that produced about 300 prime lambs annually.
After the price had been set the smaller buying audience knew immediately the market would be in their favour.
Elders auctioneer James Culleton had support from all 10 of the registered buyers who wanted to fill their usual ram quota but most bought only small numbers and they could not prevent a drop in the normally high clearance rate.
Buyers selectively picked their way through the offering and this was reflected in the results at the end of the day with 36 of the 55 rams offered selling for a $775 average, down from $1296 in 2022 when 58 rams were offered and 52 sold under the hammer.
The $1100 second highest price was paid three times by different buyers.
The first time it was by new buyer CJ & JA Brockman, Manjimup, who bought three rams, then by return buyer Waterfield Farms, Manjimup, which bought four.
Elders stud stock prime lamb specialist Michael O'Neill said the result was in line with other sales this year.
He said two major clients advised they didn't want rams with this news the Edwards family had realistic expectations on how things would go.
"They have a great product and have invested money in the right type of rams and genetics but today they didn't get justice," Mr O'Neill said.
"People who did buy are more than pleased with what they got.
"The entire Edwards family are passionate breeders and are here for the long term."
One of the two big buyers missing from the action were Len and Elaine Brookes, Yornup, who were last year's main volume buyer.
This year they were at the sale as spectators saying they had cut back on ewes and would soon 'have more rams than ewes' in their paddocks.
Returning for the third time was Pardee Grazing, Kendenup, which first bought in 2021 and also paid $1100.
Pardee has been a prolific buyer at the past two sales and was again a major force in the market.
Owners Peter and Pauline Bunker were in the process of transitioning their operation to the next generation on their family property and said it was likely their sons would want to pursue more cropping in the future.
Pardee Grazing also won the lucky draw for a soil test kit and $500 worth of BioMineral fertiliser courtesy of Westcountry Trading Company and Earth & Dirt, Donnybrook.
Last week it made that just a little more difficult for them to ignore the sheep when they bought 10 new rams including four for $1000 each.
Bevan and Vicki Eatts and son Ewan, Yanmah, needed their usual numbers and have always sought quality at the top end of the market.
They mainly run cattle in conjunction with a horticultural enterprise but in 2019 when Ewan graduated from the WA College of Agriculture - Harvey he persuaded his parents to diversify into prime lamb and have bought at the past two sales.
Last week they bought four rams including one at $1100.
It was defying the general trend with a plan to buy-in another line of ewes in the next couple of weeks, being prepared to ride through the lows, and they said they were still doing well with the sheep side of the business.
The Eatts turn off about 600 crossbreds a year through Elders to V&V Walsh and they said they were lucky they were in an area where the extended season and good grazing allowed them to put condition on their lambs right through to Christmas.
They have found the Poll Dorset has allowed them to achieve better carcase weights and, over Merino ewes, they don't have any trouble lambing.
Stud spokesman Kim Edwards said he was happy with the results.
"We knew who was coming and it was pleasing to see there were two new buyers operating," Mr Edwards said.
"It is just a year when people are cutting back on sheep numbers and you have to look to the future."
Others to buy included Westbourne Holdings, Bridgetown, which bought five for up to $800 (2) and Donnelly Waters Estate, Sunnyside, bought three at the $600 upset price.
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