SHEEP producers are whipping out their wallets this spring, buoyed by their confidence in sheep and wool's future prospects.
Livestock agents across NSW said ram buyers upped the ante and spent big not just on top sires, but annual draft of rams, as well.
Landmark's NSW livestock manager John Settree, Dubbo, said those looking for new genetics had their buying capacity boosted by their returns from recent strong selling season.
Coupled with good seasonal conditions and a low Australian dollar has made for higher purchase rates at ram sales, he said, despite the fact wool and lamb prices dipped in the past fortnight.
"We are having a glitch in the sheep and lamb market, but as soon as it rains that will rectify itself," he said.
"With the seasons quite good for the past 10 months, growers are 90 per cent sure of getting a good crop through the sheep/wheat belt of NSW."
Those positive crop outlooks have played a substantial role, with many of the volume and top-priced buyers reported as mixed enterprise farmers.
Mr Settree said the quality of sheep on offer was also an important factor.
"Selection pressures over what have been a pretty tough past three years meant what they are offering today is of a higher standard than any time in the past - there is more focus on wool cut in Merinos, and on carcase shape, weight and yield in terminal sires," he said.
Solid prices in the Merino lamb and mutton market, along with a resurgence in the wool market earlier in the year, could have producers thinking twice about swaying away from the breed.
The Eastern States Merino Lamb indicator was 496 to 536 cents a kilogram from May through late July. For most of July, the Merino Lamb indicator found itself less than 50c/kg below that of the Trade Lamb Indicator.
Merino ewes weren't left behind either, hitting $235 in late September.
Fleece weights and polled genetics are in demand over micron.
NSW top price for the season, for a 20.6-micron polled sire from Will-andra stud, Jeriliderie, hit $81,000.
Many studs across the state reaped rewards from higher clearances and much improved averages across the draft.
In the south, Harden stud Yarrawonga Merino and Poll Merinos averaged a whopping $3266, while Wood Park Poll Merinos, Hay, also cracked the $2000 average mark.
South West Slopes studs Tara Park and Merryville, both of Boorowa, increased their averages by $500, while in the west Haddon Rig, Warren, averaged $2364, and Roseville Park, Dubbo, achieved a total clearance and a $650 jump in average to $3310.
Elders NSW livestock sales manager Paul Jameson said average prices were higher right across the board, with at least as many numbers on offer this year.
"There has been a shift in the Merino side of things to an animal that is more productive meat-wise, with buyers swaying towards rams that can produce ewes or wethers with a good carcase at the end of their use, as well as grow a fleece," he said.
Mr Jameson said increased competition for Merino rams hadn't deterred terminal sales, which have been solid this season.
"Strong demand for store cattle at the minute means some people are shying away from trading cattle because of high prices, and looking to join a few more ewes, increasing the demand for Merino rams," he said.
"There has also been some shift back towards sheep from cropping areas, and we are seeing solid demand for young Merino ewe breeders in the market around the place, and clearly the rams are needed to go with those ewes."