THE SMALL west Wimmera town of Edenhope had a brief slice of national history last week, fleetingly holding the record for the highest price for first cross ewes, with prices for 1yo ewes hitting $388 a head.
The national record was broken just hours later at the much larger Naracoorte sale, where prices for 1.5yo ewes hit $402, however Edenhope still holds the Victorian record.
It was a pleasant surprise for Rodwells Edenhope's David Hanel, whose company conducted the sale, which saw 3428 ewes and 5527 lambs sold in a total yarding of 8955.
"The first couple of pens got to around that $360 mark and we were delighted with that and thought maybe that was as far as it would go, but the competition just kept coming throughout the offering and prices pushed up," Mr Hanel said.
This was borne out in the sale average, with an incredible $345 average across the entire yarding of ewes.
It meant the Edenhope sale was a good $40-50 above other equivalent sales at selling centres such as Horsham and Bendigo held over November so far.
A mixture of local and Western District demand formed the backbone of the sale, with many repeat buyers keen to get their hands on increasingly scarce breeding stock.
Sheep headed for the Dartmoor, Casterton Heywood, Hamilton, Warrnambool and Lake Bolac districts among others after the sale, while Ken Hinkley, a repeat buyer from Warracknabeal, also put together a good line to take back to the northern Wimmera.
Mr Hanel said the season had been kind in the south-western Wimmera and down into the Western District.
"There will be no worries with feed over the course of the summer and there is a fair bit of optimism about the prime lamb industry which was reflected in the sale," he said.
The result is by far the best at the centre.
"Our previous best was $302, this time we did not have a pen go under $300," Mr Hanel said.
The top price pen was offered by the Rogers family, Mt Yulong, Telangatuk, north of Balmoral with 149 August/September 2018 drop October shorn ewes and went to Charlie Kerr, Dartmoor for $388.
Wayne and Jill McClure, Harrow, sold 144 spring 2019 drop ewes for $382 while there were four separate pens to $362, offered by the Hancock family (twice), the Kealy family and the Chadwick family, all who farm in the Miga Lake / Charam area to the north-east of Edenhope.
Mr McClure said it was a fantastic result for all vendors that reflected the evenness of the sale offering.
"All the sheep that went in to the sale were in excellent condition and the buyers know what they are getting, as you could see by the number of repeat buyers here."
On the ewe lamb front there was one sale at $340 but this was an outlier, with most prices between $230 and $310 and an average of $245.
The prices for the top two pens of lambs were in line with values for ewe lambs at Bendigo and Naracoorte this month but the others were lower.
Mr Hanel said this was easily explained.
"It's all down to age. The top price pen, offered by the Dearden family, Bringalbert, can be joined immediately, as can the second top price pen, which made $310 for Wimmera Downs (north of Stawell)."
"The other lamb offerings were slightly younger and more suited to an autumn joining which is why you saw the prices back a bit.
"This is in line with the seasons, our lambs drop a little bit later than in drier districts such as Bendigo or even the guys around Lameroo that sell into the Naracoorte sale.
The top price lamb pen of $340 from the Dearden family smashed the previous record, also held by the Deardens, of $276.
It was also a big day for local volume vendors Danny and Noeline West, who sold 1070 of their May/June 2019 drop lambs for up to $285 and an average of $265.
Mr Hanel said although prices on the day seem expensive at face value it was easy to make a case for the dollars paid to stack up.
"When you've got prime lamb prices where they are at around $200 and old ewes selling well in excess of $150 it is not difficult to make these prices work, there is some real optimism in the sector.
"The drought means a national shortage of breeding stock and when it does eventually break we're going to see those in the north really try and get hold of breeders so it is possible things could get stronger again."