The Lukin Springs on-property ram sale proved sheep people were in the industry for the long haul with plenty of positive stories of how they planned to beat the current downturn.
Unfazed by prevailing low returns, locals rallied to the recent Boyup Brook on-property sale while others travelled long distances to be there and take advantage of a market clearly in their favour.
The sale opened with 75 Poll Merinos and it took until lot 50 before the $2100 top was set.
Kojonup farmer Tim Zadow bought 10 rams but had put double ticks on the ram in pen 50, and after getting the previous six rams at good value, he went extra hard on the one sheep he considered had everything in one package.
The ram had a 157.12 Merino Select Dual Purpose index (DP+) and combined an exceptional wool quality - both visually and on paper - with excellent carcase traits.
The ram showed positive deviations Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) of 17.5 yearling clean fleece weight (YCFW), 5.8 yearling weight (YWT), 1.3 yearling fat (YFAT), 2.6 yearling eye muscle depth (YEMD), 7.0 worm egg count (WEC) and was one of 39 rams in the 75-ram offering that had a 100 per cent wool comfort factor.
Mr Zadow said they were always looking for wool quality as well as the doability to make them as easy as possible for management.
He runs a cropping and sheep enterprise balanced a little more in favour of sheep and said rather than cutting back numbers, he planned to shorten the joining period this year.
Instead of a five-week mating, he will reduce it to four weeks, separate the dry ewes and run them harder.
"Normally 90pc of the lambs you get are born in that four-week window," Mr Zadow said.
"We don't want to change things too much because I really believe it (the current market situation) is a market fluctuation and things will turn around quickly."
The Zadow family paid $1300 for a second ram, but most of their requirements were bought in the $700-$800 price range.
Buyer registrations were fewer than last year with 20 recorded by the clerks and all were successful in the auction.
Of that number, seven competed for the 75 Poll rams to clear 47 under the hammer for $934 average.
The $2000 second top price buyer was local Craig Nield, trading as Beulah Farms and one of the stud's longest-serving clients who has used Lukin Springs bloodlines since its inception.
He continues to have a close relationship with studmaster Paul Goerling who classes his young ewes annually and encouraged him to move to a non-mulesed flock two years ago.
Mr Nield bought seven rams in total and was another who was looking at building numbers after leasing a property, dispersing the existing flock and replacing it with one based on Lukin Springs bloodlines.
Mr Nield bought another at $1300 and said it was more than he planned, but said it would give him the flexibility to split some of his ewes into smaller mobs.
He was looking for size and wool quality and found prices well within budget.
Mr Nield's top-priced ram from pen four also had an impressive set of figures showing a 156.45 DP+ index, calculated from 30.7 YCFW, 6.9 YWT, 0.2 YFAT, -0.8 YEMD and 37 WEC.
This week the stud also took on the mantle of being one of WA's undiscovered gems when it comes to wool quality.
Lukin Springs is solidly based on Leachim, South Australia, bloodlines that combine a long staple, deeply crimped, well-nourished wool that is arguably among the best wool studs in WA.
Former stud breeder Wayne Lewis, Fleming Grove Farms, who travelled from far-flung Gibson, was a notable inclusion on the clerking sheets and bought rams for $1700, $1400 (2) among a draft of five.
One of the day's volume buyers was JGR & L Imrie, Boyup Brook, who bought nine Poll Merinos for up to $1900, as well as $1400 before turning his attention to the White Suffolk to get a further seven terminal sires.
Nutrien Livestock auctioneer Mark Warren headed the selling team and said it was a very good line-up of rams with size and stylish free-growing white wool but unfortunately the sale lacked buyer support and he found it a challenging sale.
"They are very, very good quality wool sheep and you will go a long way to find better," Mr Warren said.
"As the season has gone on and moved west, sales generally have become more difficult and it hasn't helped that a couple of bigger buyers were not here today."
In his pre-sale address Mr Warren had equally good praise for the Goerling family's White Suffolk rams, saying they had size, length of body and very good figures.
He told buyers, "good luck trying to pick them - they are all the same".
After the Merinos, the terminal breeds were next with solid competition from 15 bidders who set a $1700 top price.
Top buyer was local man Marcus Gifford, another long-term client who runs a flock of purebred Dohnes with half of the flock devoted to wool production and supplying ewe replacements and the other half used to produce prime lambs.
He had no plan to reduce breeding numbers.
"We will just do our normal thing and push on through but we may look at increasing the percentage we join for prime lambs," Mr Gifford said.
He was delighted at the sheer number of rams that suited his needs saying it was a consistent quality line-up.
Mr Gifford paid $1100 for two other rams and bought seven in total.
Agents held a buying order from Moolyall Farms, Ravensthorpe, that set the $1600 second top price and acquired nine rams.
Phillip Foss and son Chazzon, Biami Farms Pty Ltd, Ardath, returned to buy eight and took prices to $1500, $1200 and $1100 on different occasions but, in the absence of competition, was able to get most of their rams for $700-$800.
He said he first met Paul Goerling in South Australia at Leachim stud and came to the sale about five years ago "for a look" and has been buying ever since.
"They seem to work for us - they have good eye muscle and good growth - any ram we pick needs to have at least 2.5 YEMD and good growth figures - over our Merino ewes, birthweight is not a problem.
"We mainly run Merinos and have less focus on crossbreds."
Their response to low prices has been to increase ewe numbers this year via a plan to retain their normally cast-for-age ewe line meaning they will turn-off up to 1000 crossbred lambs.
After the initial burst of competition on the early lots, the sale settled and most buyers were able to collect rams in a single $700 bid.
Their efforts cleared 72 of the 109 rams offered equating to a 66pc clearance slightly ahead of the 63pc achieved by the Poll Merino rams.
It was a bittersweet result for the Goerling family.
Paul Goerling said they had been prepared for lower prices but it was disappointing particularly as he regarded it as their best-ever lineup and they had received so many positive comments about the sheep.
He thanked buyers for turning up as usual and said people had been very supportive of what they were doing and for them it would be business as usual and they were prepared to ride their way through it.
The main volume White Suffolk buyers were NA & SD Waterman, Frankland, who paid up to $1000 for 10 and TJ & KL Sloan, Bowelling, who bought nine at $700.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.